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Adrienne Yancey for opensource.com

Adrienne Yancey for opensource.com

Time for international climate negotiations to consider health

201507-08

By Vitor Machado Lira


International negotiations on climate change do not fully reflect the concerns, prevention, promotion and recovery of global health, says a senior researcher who is determined to do something about it.  

Rodolfo Milhomem de Sousa, Senior Advisor at the Brazilian Agency for Industrial Development has drafted a policy proposition based on international law and language used in treaties from previous conferences. 

Separated in 16 policy articles with justifications, translated into English and Portuguese, his recommendations are similar to that of the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, but zero in on human health.  

He hopes to take these to December’s UNFCCC COP 21 in Paris, which has tremendous potential to gear international conversation and, most importantly, legal action from involved partisan nations towards the health-centered vision. 

“References to health are only in the footnotes of UNFCCC decisions over the past few years, diminishing the direct and indirect relationships between climate change and health as if they did not exist,” said Milhomem de Sousa who is also a presenter at the Our Common Future Under Climate Change conference from July 7-10 in Paris, France.

“Climate change negotiations must possess a human facet, and [the parties involved must] not see the theme only as environmental or economic. Without this specific health-centered language, all [UNFCCC] related actions are harmed.”

Recent reports by the Lancet and the World Health Organization show a strong correlation between climate change and health. It is expected that an additional 250,000 lives will be lost per year between 2030 and 2050 due to climate change. And as for potential solutions, the WHO maintains, “reducing greenhouse gas emissions through better transport, food and energy-use choices can reduce air pollution, and as a consequence, improve human health.” 

Yet, the gap between health in discourse and legal commitment remains. Milhomem’s research reviews the history of past conferences of parties (UNFCCC COPs), and delineates procedural changes that bind participating parties of future conferences to a health-centered vision. 

“Change happens in a very slow manner in these negotiations. It is not easy, but there has been great progress with new adaptation and mitigation mechanisms,” he said. 

“All actions, with regard to the UNFCCC, ought to have as a foundation one supreme objective, that is: protecting human health from the catastrophic consequences of climate change.” 

Milhomem points to other international environmental treaties where health has been included.

“The Minimata Convention on mercury turned out to be a positive case – we managed to insert health in as a specific chapter a treaty that was initially only focused on the environment.” 

“This gives me hope that it is indeed possible to see the insertion of the health sector in climate negotiations.” 

This is part of a blog series profiling climate scientists, economists, social scientists and civil society members who are presenting and discussing innovative climate science at Our Common Future. For more follow @ClimatParis2015 and #CFCC15 on Twitter.

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