Vikrom Mathur and Aparna Roy, Eds., Converging Paths: Global Governance for Climate Justice and Health Equity, November 2023, Observer Research Foundation.
The relationship between global health and climate change is profound and multidimensional. Climate change is already causing widespread impacts across the globe and exacerbating existing health vulnerabilities. Extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, floods, and hurricanes, contribute to the spread of infectious diseases, disrupt health systems, and strain resources, especially in vulnerable regions. Climate-induced disruptions to food and water supplies are further compromising nutrition and sanitation, resulting in adverse health outcomes. Climate change is also undermining many of the social determinants for good health, such as livelihoods, equality, and access to health care and social support structures.
Countries that have, historically, contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions are the ones bearing the most adverse ramifications of climate change. Low- and middle-income countries, in particular, are facing the brunt of health inequities. Unless current patterns are reversed, vulnerable populations, women, indigenous communities, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions, will suffer the most acute health impacts of climate change. For instance, increased temperatures can lead to more frequent and severe heat waves, creating the worst impact on those without adequate housing or proper ventilation.
This volume highlights the inextricable link between climate justice and health equity, and calls for the creation of global governance frameworks that are better aligned to ensure global equity and justice. The principle of ‘climate justice’ is rooted in the idea that the burden of climate change should not disproportionately fall on those least responsible for creating the crisis; the aim should be the equitable distribution of resources and responsibilities. Mirroring the goals of climate justice, global ‘health equity’ refers to the principle of ensuring that every individual has a fair opportunity to achieve their full health potential, regardless of geographic location, race, ethnicity, economic status, gender, age, or other socially determined circumstance.
Silos now need to be broken. Global health governance should adopt principles of climate justice, acknowledging the disproportionate impact of climate change on those without equitable access to health services and resources. Health should be central to efforts to ensure climate justice. Breaking down these barriers, however, is not an easy task. Yet, through informed and decisive leadership, it is possible to create a more integrated approach to global governance that serves both the planet's health and the well-being of its inhabitants.
The Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, COP 28 must move the climate-health nexus to the centrestage of the global climate change agenda. The nexus of climate justice and health equity needs greater attention to address the deepening global inequalities in the health impacts of climate change. The objective of this volume is to shape both the framework for global health governance and that for global climate governance, and explore pathways for their convergence.
The compendium begins by uncovering the impacts and vulnerabilities that climate change inflicts on human health.
In Section I, Robin Fears and Andy Haines outline the pathways of climate risk and the direct and indirect effects of climate change on human well-being. Saleem ul Huq and As-Saba Hossain then delve into identifying the regions, communities, and social groups most vulnerable to the health impacts of global warming, and trace the historical trajectories that shape these vulnerabilities.
Climate change acts as a powerful stress multiplier, exacerbating vulnerabilities across a spectrum of global systems, intricately linking the health of populations to systemic impacts and changes. Section II explores the most crucial of these interlinkages.
In her essay, Sara Roversi probes how climate change affects food security and exacerbates malnutrition, especially among vulnerable populations. She proposes effective strategies to address the intricate relationship between climate, nutrition, and better health outcomes. Vidisha Mishra, in the fourth chapter, dives into gender-specific health risks tied to climate change, advocating for gender-responsive policies within healthcare systems.
Chapter 5, authored by Meelan Thondoo, Tolu Oni and Akeem Ali, draws on the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic to shed light on the societal, economic, and political factors that amplify the consequences of climate change and pandemics on marginalised populations. Reva Dhingra and Ciaran Donnelly’s essay then explores how climate change-induced migration and displacement, and the ensuing socio-economic challenges impact health inequities. The chapter also tackles the political implications of addressing the health needs of 'climate refugees' and managing the strain on health infrastructure in receiving regions.
Section III of this volume explores the integrated pathways for building climate-resilient global health systems and frameworks for the convergence of global health and climate change governance.
In their piece, Sanjay Pattanshetty, Aniruddha Inamdar, Kiran Bhatt, and Helmut Brand outline the elements of resilient global health systems amidst evolving diseases driven by climate change. Nishant Sirohi and Priti Patnaik shift the focus to redefining global health governance mechanisms to incorporate climate change effectively within international agreements and policies. Railla Puno and Danielle Yeow then examine how global climate policy and climate justice frameworks under the UNFCCC could emphasise and address health concerns.
We conclude the volume with our essay that outlines ten key action points for converging pathways for global governance to ensure climate justice and health equity.
Read the volume here.
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Vikrom Mathur is Senior Fellow at ORF.Read More +
Aparna Roy is a Fellow and Lead Climate ChangeRead More +