European Union External Action

WHO - 142nd Executive Board Geneva - EU Statement: Item 3.5 – Health, environment and climate change

Geneva, 23/01/2018 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 180125_2
Statements on behalf of the EU

World Health Organization 142nd Executive Board Geneva, 22 January – 27 January 2018 EU Statement: Item 3.5 – Health, environment and climate change

Thank you, Chair.

I am speaking on behalf of the EU and its Member States. The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia[1], Montenegro* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia align themselves with this statement.

Climate change and environmental degradation are the defining issue of our time. Climate change affects people’s health and development, increases the risk of conflicts, poverty and hunger, undermines human rights, and is a growing cause of forced migration. There are considerable inequalities, concerning both exposure and effects. The hardest hit are people living in poverty hardest as they are often directly dependent on natural resources, biodiversity and ecosystem services from forests, land, watercourses and seas, for their livelihoods.

The Lancet Commission on climate change and health has stated that tackling climate change might be the largest health opportunity of the century. They based this statement on the potential health benefits of avoiding substantial impacts of climate change, together with the co-benefits of climate change mitigation and adaptation. As an example, by lowering the need for fossil fuel driven transportation, promoting bicycling, bettering infrastructure and greening the cities we not only mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, we lower pollution, and create more climate resilient infrastructure.

Agenda2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals give opportunities to move forward in our efforts to improve global health. If we are going to achieve SDG 3 and 13, we need to work across the health, environment and climate change agendas, including through cross-cutting and preventive approach. We need to promote actions that are mutually reinforcing and that support co-benefits for these goals and targets.

Mr Chair,

Health effects from climate change, in particular from natural disasters, lead to a great welfare loss and economic consequences. Simply put, it’s more expensive not to act than to take action against for example pollution and climate change at large. However there is a need to expand knowledge on the links between health, environment and climate change issues.

The mandate and the responsibility for adapting to climate change and building sound and healthy societies are divided between different countries, stakeholders and sectors. Many stakeholders have other primary objectives and not always insight into the determinants affecting a healthy and resilient population. In addition, no stakeholder alone can manage all the different aspects of health impacts from environmental factors. Thus, a Health in All Policies approach is necessary. Likewise, there is a clear need for a more integrated, ONE-UN-approach in which all relevant UN-organizations, such as UNEA, UNICEF, UNIDO and UNCTAD, work closely together at the global, regional and national level to reach all the objectives on mitigating the health impact of degrading environments and climate change.

The EU supports the objectives of the DG in launching a flagship initiative on climate impacts on health for small island states and vulnerable settings and even more strongly supports the development of a Global strategy on Health, Environment and Climate Change. We found the text of the draft decision to be unclear on process and timelines and we thank the Secretariat for the extensive answers it provided in response to our questions. We think the EB can benefit from the secretariat sharing with all of us present our questions and the Secretariat answers, also for the record of this meeting. We also consider that for good governance reasons, the flagship initiative part of the decision would benefit from having a timeline and a role for the governing bodies included in it.

Therefore the EU and its MS would like to propose the following amendments to the draft decision on Health, environment and climate change, which is contained within Document EB142/12.

I will proceed to read out these proposals:

1. At the end of Para 1, we would like to add: ‘and to submit the draft action plan for consideration by the Seventy-second World Health Assembly in May 2019, through the Executive Board at its 144th session in January 2019’.

2. To para 2, after the words "regional offices" we would like to add "and with other relevant UN-programmes and specialized agencies such as UNEP." This para would thus read: "to develop, in consultation with Member States and other stakeholders as appropriate, and in coordination also with the regional offices and with other relevant UN-programmes and specialized agencies such as UNEP, a draft comprehensive global strategy on health, environment and climate change, to be considered by the Seventy-second World Health Assembly in May 2019, through the Executive Board at its 144th session in January 2019;

A copy of these proposed amendments has been made available to the Secretariat,

I thank you Mr Chair


[1] The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

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