The year 2022 presents a great opportunity to mainstream social justice and health in the global environmental agenda, with far-reaching consequences for the long-term health and resilience of communities and societies worldwide.
In recovering from the global shock caused by COVID-19 - and the resulting damage to livelihoods, health, and sustainable development – governments are increasingly prioritizing a healthy and sustainable recovery of their economies that takes into account the broader social, commercial and environmental determinants of health. To encourage a healthy post-COVID recovery, in May 2020, WHO launched its Manifesto, laying out 6 prescriptions and over 70 actions for achieving more sustainable, just and healthy societies.
Efforts by civil society groups, local communities, and policy makers at various levels have led to the increased recognition of the interconnections between our planet and our health. This is increasingly reflected in international fora, each of which present essential entry points for more coordinated, transformative change. This section will discuss essential entry points to raise ambition at the global level, examples include: World Health Day 2022 “Our planet, our health” campaign, the UN convention on biodiversity (CBD) process to develop a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, the Health argument for climate action in the lead up to COP 27, the G7 and G20 commitment to the protection, management and restoration of biodiversity, and an improved understanding of the interrelations between nature, climate and health crises. (G7 2030 Nature Compact, G7 One Health Initiative), The Sao Paulo Declaration on Planetary Health (2021).
Investing in basic services can protect the health of the most vulnerable from the risks associated with climate change and nature loss. Investing in well-designed health services, infrastructure, sanitation, clean drinking water, drainage, electricity, and land-rights, can transform development opportunities, reduce inequalities, increase adaptive capacity, and reduce vulnerability to climate-related risks.
We have the solutions at hand. Priority actions to address the current climate, biodiversity and health crises include: protecting and restoring nature as the foundation of our health; building health resilience to climate risks; creating energy systems that protect and improve climate and health; transforming urban environments, transport, and mobility; promoting healthy, sustainable, and resilient food systems; and finance a healthier, fairer, and greener future to save lives.
The public health benefits of actions and investments to reverse the climate and biodiversity crises far outweigh the costs. The health co-benefits from climate change actions are well evidenced, offer strong arguments for transformative change, and can be gained across many sectors. Effective solutions to reverse nature loss - such as protecting existing forests and other ecosystems, sustainable agriculture and balanced and healthy diets - offer some of the highest potentials for mitigation and adaptation while also bringing many health benefits (see WHO COP26 Special Report on Climate Change and Health: The Health Argument for Climate Action).
(1) Addressing intersecting crises and political opportunities at the global level;
(2) National and local opportunities to maximize health outcomes
(3) Socio-political and economic dimensions: Financing a healthier, greener future.
This sub-theme 3, “Making a Difference: Taking Action on the Ground” will serve as an opportunity to critically reflect on the opportunities for action that are needed to create well-being societies. And it will exhibit initiatives, case-studies, alternative worldviews and socio-economic models for protecting and promoting health on a rapidly changing planet. These examples will represent a broad range of actors, sectors, geographies and perspectives and will highlight the multiple co-benefits of working across sectors for health, social justice, biodiversity and climate change.