European Union External Action

WHO - WHA 71 - EU Statement - Agenda item 11.4 - Health, environment and climate change

Geneva, 21/05/2018 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 180522_13
Statements on behalf of the EU

71st session of the World Health Assembly Geneva, 21-26 May 2018 EU Statement - Agenda item 11.4 - Health, environment and climate change

Thank you, Chair.

I am speaking on behalf of the EU and its Member States.

The Candidate Countries Turkey, Montenegro[*], Serbia* and Albania* and the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine and Georgia align themselves with this statement

Climate change and environmental degradation are the defining issue of our time. Climate change and environmental degradation affect 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 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. What is good for people’s health is also many times good for our planet and climate.

To achieve SDG:s 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 aiming at more healthy societies.

Mr Chair,

Health effects from environmental degradation and 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, and in particular WHO and UNEP, work closely together at the global, regional and national level to tackle the challenges posed by degrading environments and climate change in order to reach the objectives on mitigating the impact on health.

The EU commends the DG’s strong commitment for Health, Environment and Climate Change. We also take this opportunity to thank the Secretariat for the update on the road map on air pollution as well as the information that the Executive Board asked for in January on the linkages between health and biodiversity and the role that WHO plays in this field. We look forward to working with secretariat on the draft Comprehensive Strategy for Health, Environment and Climate Change as decided by the Executive Board in January. Finally, we are looking forward to engage constructively in the run up to the high-level conference that will be held in Geneva late October, beginning of November.

I thank you Mr Chair.


[*] Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

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