The Coalition on Health and Environment: Climate Change Initiative
- Giving Health its Place in Climate Change Policies and Statements
SeaTrust Institute and Nurses Across the Borders are the joint focal points for the Coalition on Health and Environment: Climate Change Initiative – an emerging collaborative of organizations and individuals, nations and agencies that understand human health to be the standard by which all climate change actions, negotiations, treaties and plans are ultimately measured. Health is at the heart of all areas of climate change work.
The Coalition began with a small informal group meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009 during the UN Climate Change Meetings (COP15); it was recognized as a partner as part of the Friends of Public Health collaboration organized by WHO for those focusing on health in Cancun during the 2010 COP16. In one year, through a partnership between its co-Chairs from the USA and Nigeria that exists both within and beyond the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Coalition has become an example of a successful collaboration across the global North and South through the issue that binds us all – our health.
Every area of climate change activity, from water to carbon, from REDD to sustainability, uses human health and well-being as a primary success indicator. Rather than being isolated as a segment of the climate change conversation, the Coalition is striving to build awareness that health not only crosses all sectors’ concerns but encompasses all sectors. Good health is an asset to global economies and allows nations to co-create new solutions for climate adaptation and mitigation, which is why our African partner cites the adage, “health is wealth - the wealth of any nation is rooted in the health of the people - A healthy nation is a wealthy nation.”
Health is a central focus in Agenda 21, MDG and other climate texts. An immediate goal of the Coalition is to see the role of health explicitly recognized and stated in the UNFCC texts at the Durban 2011 UNFCCC meetings. The work will continue after the conclusion of COP17.
Going forward from COP16, and in collaboration with the World Health Organization which acts to liaise with NGOs, global agencies and nations, this health and climate change Coalition engages traditional health partners with other climate change actors in an innovative approach to reaching agreements through research reviews and compilation; seeking current and planned studies; and stories from the field by those experiencing health effects from climate change. The phenomenal growth of interdisciplinary attention to climate, medical and social science leads us to seek a broad representation in the Coalition as well as input from those with academic, practitioner and research backgrounds, nations, businesses, individuals and communities witnessing changes at the nexus of climate change and health.
In addition to policy engagement, the health and climate Coalition engages in tangible activities that build awareness and engagement with health and climate science. A keystone 2011 activity designed to provide a context for the studies presented by the Coalition at COP17 is a project engaging nurses with pertinent climate change science that affects their local work, honoring nurses’ professional expertise and position of trust as both disseminators of adaptation knowledge and as appropriate and as well-placed collectors of local surveillance data on climate-related diseases. We begin these activities with the partnership between the focal points of this Coalition - SeaTrust Institute, USA and Nurses Across the Borders NIGERIA in their engagement and training of Nigerian nurses. This process is designed to be expanded in all global regions to bring health to the heart of climate change negotiation - through tangible action.
Assessments of the potential human health impacts of climate change are being called for to inform the development of adaptation and mitigation strategies, policies, and measures to lessen projected adverse impacts. Studies from _____ and work underway in creating the AR5 reports by the UNFCCC are populated with calls for such studies. Local, regional and country-level and assessments need to be considered singly and in conjunction with global assessments to help policy makers make evidence-based decisions to increase resilience to current and future climates, and to provide information for communications to the UNFCCC. The Coalition’s role in that communication at COP17 gives participants a recognized forum in which to participate. Coalition activities fall under two working areas.
Research (led by Co-Chair Dr. Lynn Wilson, SeaTrust Institute, USA)
Central to achieving the Coalition’s goals of providing access to evidence in a policy relevant framework for UNFCCC negotiators is a review team that will follow an auditable protocol for collecting, collating and disseminating studies and reports. Lead reviewers must have significant academic and professional research credentials and may engage secondary teams to compile research that the lead review team will synthesize into reports. These lead reviewers and their teams are now being recruited; current leaders are from Ghana, and the USA. We seek representation from other global regions to provide a balance of formal studies and anecdotal evidence.
Reviewers will systematically coordinate activities including some or all of the following: a) collection and determination of the scope of research; b) compilation of key research within and across climate regime sectoral scopes; c) place research within current strategies, policies, and measures designed to reduce the burden of climate-sensitive health determinants and outcomes under consideration by UNFCCC negotiators and countries; d) consider the health implications of the potential impacts of climate variability and change in new ways to highlight health co-benefits; f) synthesize results; and g) suggest policies and measures to reduce potential negative health impacts. It is understood that this ambitious list of activities will only be partially realized by the meetings in Durban but provides a framework for inclusion by all who believe health is central to the climate change discussions.
Awareness and Inclusion (led by Co-Chair Peters Omoragbon, Nurses Across the Borders, Nigeria)
Key issues for ensuring that this work is informative, timely, and useful include global involvement, and a communication strategy. Generating awareness and recruiting Coalition supporters from countries such as health ministers, as well as all partners who value health in climate change decisions is part of this segment’s action agenda. To achieve this, NAB-HI will use its position as NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN and Board Member, CoNGOs (Conference of NGOs in Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations), and Member, Steering Committee of the Regional Committee of Africa of CoNGOs promote the Health and Climate Change Coalition with the aim of recruiting new collaborating Partners. This will also include active involvement of civil society so that the grass roots shall become the ultimate beneficiary of the over-all efforts of the coalition in mitigating and adapting to the effect of Climate Change. This will provide good visibility to the Coalition for sponsors and media.
Joint Focal Point Contacts: