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FPH-led joint statement on COP26

Although climate change is widely recognised as the greatest health threat facing humanity, until this year’s COP26, health has not featured in COP programmes.

In the intergovernmental negotiation process of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), non-governmental organizations admitted as observers to the COP can affiliate with UNFCC recognised Constituency Focal Groups. There are nine of these groups, covering a range of organisations from industry and business, to research, to women and gender. Notably, there is no health-focused constituency.

Despite this, and the historic lack of health as a feature in COP discussions and negotiations, an active network of health observer organisations formed at COP26, and came together to collaborate on shared messaging around the health argument for climate action and lobbying for health to feature more prominently in the negotiations and wider conversation.

In lieu of a formal health constituency group, FPH submitted a health-focused statement to the UNFCC secretariat to represent the health voice, working with other health observer organisations at COP who endorsed / were signatories to the statement.

COP26 Health Organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations High Level Statement

This statement, developed by the UK Faculty of Public Health in collaboration with other health organisations, represents a group of Health Organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations.

We speak on behalf of both current and future generations of health and public health professionals, knowing that this will be one of the greatest challenges we face in our careers.  Climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity that undermines human rights; but it is also an opportunity. Delivering the necessary mitigation and adaptation actions to keep the 1.5 target alive will not only protect from further catastrophic health impacts and millions of deaths, but will also result in improvements in current population health. A better future is achievable. A healthier climate and planet for all communities across the globe and future generations is possible.

We see two potential futures. Imagine the date is 12th November 2050. 

  1. Due to the effects of climate change and environmental breakdown there are annually hundreds of thousands of deaths and many more people living with the health impacts. Ecosystems in all parts of the world have been affected. Millions of people have lost their homes, jobs, and had their lives disrupted. Hospitals are flooded. Health systems and economies have broken down. Food scarcity and infectious diseases have increased dramatically.


  1. Due to the efforts at COP26, the worst impacts of climate change and environmental breakdown have been reduced. The annual death toll and disruption to people’s lives is gradually decreasing. We knew in 2021 that our efforts would be critical to the lives of future generations and we took the necessary action to ensure that our impact on the environment would be no more than an average of 1.5 degrees increase in temperature. We learnt lessons from indigenous peoples and are now on the road to rebuilding our lives and environments in sustainable ways that support ecosystems and human populations. Delivering the necessary mitigation and adaptation actions to keep the 1.5 target alive not only protected us from catastrophic health impacts and millions of deaths, but also resulted in improvements in population health.

Sadly, as things stand, the world is on track to see the catastrophic version 1 of the future, with ever increasing deaths, unless immediate actions are taken.

We urge world leaders and representatives at COP to:

  • take immediate action to limit global warming to 1.5° in order to protect the health of your citizens, including large-scale change to energy and finance systems;
  • maximise health co-benefits when developing NDCs, long-term strategies and other climate policies;
  • build resilient and sustainable health care systems;
  • foster community resilience to the health and climate crisis, including through increased action on and finance for adaptation.

This must include accelerating energy efficiency measures and the transition to clean, renewable energy; shifting to low-carbon transport systems with safe active travel and zero emissions vehicles; and transitioning to sustainable and plant-rich diets. These actions will immediately improve health, save lives, increase work productivity and school performance, and save money in avoided healthcare costs and premature deaths. Many such considerations are included in NDCs. Net zero targets should be founded on real emissions reductions in order to also yield the health benefits of improved air quality, nutrition, and physical activity.

We urge leaders from high-income countries to:

  • Recognise the scale of climate injustice and your responsibilities to the communities in other countries (and those within) who suffer the most impact from climate change and who are the least responsible and to act on this by providing financing both for adaptation and to respond to health losses and damages.

Health and equity must be placed at the heart of the response to this emergency. A better, healthier, and fairer future is possible. We still have time to act to save millions of lives, communities, and our shared planet, but we MUST ACT NOW.

Thank you.


Signatories / endorsers:

UK Faculty of Public Health

Global Climate and Health Alliance

US Medical Society Consortium for Climate and Health

University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute

University of California Center for Climate, Health, and Equity

George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication

The Climate and Health Network of Latin America and the Caribbean

Centro Latinoamericano de Excelencia en Cambio Climatico y Salud

PlaHNet - Planetary Health Network of Young Professionals

Sustain Our Abilities

Médecins du Monde International Network

Irish Doctors for the Environment

International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA)

Centre for Sustainable Healthcare

Global Youth Health Caucus, UN Major Group for Children and Youth

Commonwealth Youth Health Network 

CPIHD (Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists Special Interest Group in International Health and Development.)

World Medical Association (WMA)

Public Health Foundation of India

Rete Italiana Medici Sentinella per l’Ambiente (RIMSA)


Malawi National Youth Network on Climate Change (NYNCC)

Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER)

Climate and Health Alliance (Australia)

Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education

Published 12 November 2021

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