Uganda has committed to develop climate-smart health care, joining a total of 47 countries that have done the same at the COP26 United Nations climate conference at Glasgow, Scotland.

Among the countries that have committed to develop climate-resilient and low carbon health systems are some of the world’s worst polluters and some of the most vulnerable countries to health impacts caused by climate change.

The world health organization has lauded these steps in responding to the growing evidence of impact of climate change on people’s health.

Twelve of the countries have set target date to reach net zero carbon emissions on or before 2050.

They are Kenya, Malawi and Indonesia which set the most ambitious target to reach net zero by 2030. The others are Sierra Leon and Nigeria in 2035, Fiji and United Kingdom in 2040 and Belgium, Jordan, Morocco, Peru, Sao Tome and Principe, Spain and Yemen in 2050.

Uganda like the rest of the 34 committed countries is yet to decide on a date when it projects to possibly achieve a net zero in carbon emissions.

The commitments were made as part of the COP26 Health Programme, a partnership between the UK government, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Climate Champions and health groups, such as Health Care Without Harm.

“The future of health must be built on health systems that are resilient to the impacts of epidemics, pandemics and other emergencies, but also to the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather events and the increasing burden of various diseases related to air pollution and our warming planet,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization.

“Health systems must also be part of the solution, by reducing carbon emissions. We applaud those countries that have committed to building climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems, and we hope to see many others following their lead in the near future.”

The country commitments come off the back of a WHO survey, launched this week, which shows that the majority of countries now include health in their national climate plans to the Paris Agreement, but that plans often still lack detailed health actions or support mechanisms.

These government commitments exemplify the growing global health movement for climate action.

“ Around the world doctors, nurses, hospitals, health systems and ministries of health are reducing their climate footprint, becoming more resilient and advocating for a just transition that puts health at the centre of a decarbonized civilization,” said Josh Karliner, International Director of Program and Strategy of Health Care Without Harm.

A record number of health leaders are participating at the COP26 UN climate conference, and more than 45 million health professionals, representing two thirds of the world’s health workforce, have signed a letter urging governments to take stronger action, noting that “hospitals, clinics and communities around the world have already been responding to the health harms caused by climate change”.

Health was selected as one of three science priority areas for COP26 by the UK government. As part of the COP26 Health Programme, the COP26 Presidency is working alongside WHO, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) and the UNFCCC Climate Champions to engage countries and stakeholders on climate and health.

Country commitments

A list of all country commitments will be available on the WHO website, here.

The countries that have joined the COP26 Health Programme include:

Argentina, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Bhutan, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, Fiji, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Lao PDR, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Morocco, Mozambique, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, Yemen.

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