WHO unveils framework for climate resilient and low carbon health systems


Responding to the rapidly changing climate, the World Health Organization (WHO) has unveiled a new Operational framework for building climate resilient and low carbon health systems. Released in the lead up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate (COP-28), this comprehensive Framework is designed to enhance the resilience of health systems while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to help safeguard the health of communities worldwide.

“Around the world, health systems are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, but they also contribute to it,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “We therefore have a dual responsibility to build health systems that can withstand climate-related shocks, while at the same time reducing their carbon footprint. This framework gives countries a roadmap for doing just that.”

As global temperatures rise and extreme weather events become increasingly common, the need for climate-resilient health systems has never been more critical. WHO's Framework provides a visionary path to addressing this challenge, with a core mission to protect and improve the health of populations in the face of an unstable and changing climate.

Moreover, it emphasises the optimisation of resource use and the implementation of strategies to curtail GHG emissions while continuing to prioritise climate resilience. This Framework presents an opportunity for the health sector to lead by example by reducing its own GHG emissions - which are now responsible for almost 5% of the global total - while continuing to enhance quality of care.

The Framework presents different pathways for health systems to strengthen their climate resilience and decarbonise depending on their overall performance, levels of GHG emissions and climate change and health capacity. This includes systems in low-income countries that need to increase energy access and health service provision to provide universal health coverage. Building climate resilient and low carbon health systems contributes to WHO's commitment to providing safe, quality healthcare services while helping combat the root causes of climate change.

The key objectives of the WHO Framework are:

• To guide health sector professionals in addressing climate-related health risks through collaboration

• To strengthen health system functions for climate resilience and low carbon health approaches

• To support development of specific interventions for climate risk reduction and emissions reduction

• To define roles and responsibilities for health decision makers in climate resilience.

The benefits of implementing this Framework extend far beyond the realm of healthcare. Reducing GHG emissions and enhancing the resilience of health systems contributes to the broader objectives of universal health coverage (UHC), global health security, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Framework was developed following the request for WHO support by Ministers of Health from over 75 countries to building climate-resilient and low-carbon sustainable health systems. These countries joined the Alliance for Transformative Action on Climate and Health (ATACH) during the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s Presidency of the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP-26) in November 2021. The United Kingdom and WHO then formally established ATACH in June 2022 to drive this ambitious agenda forward.

This comprehensive document is not only a roadmap for health organisations and authorities but also a valuable resource for decision makers in health-determining sectors. Public health agencies, policymakers, and specialised institutions can all benefit from the insights and strategies outlined in this Framework.

The Framework sets out 10 components for building climate-resilient and low carbon health systems:

• Climate-transformative leadership and governance

• Climate-smart health workforce

• Assessments of climate and health risks and GHG emissions

• Integrated risks monitoring, early warning and GHG emissions tracking

• Health and climate research

• Climate-resilient and low carbon infrastructures, technologies and supply chain

• Management of environmental determinants of health

• Climate-informed health programmes

• Climate-related emergency preparedness and management

• Sustainable climate and health financing.

The WHO’s Operational framework for building climate resilient and low carbon health systems is part of a blueprint for a future-proof and sustainable health sector. It provides a clear path forward for health systems to protect communities in an ever-changing climate, reduce GHG emissions and contribute to the achievement of global health goals.

Have Your Say

There are currently no comments for this article