Health as the bridge between the Race to Zero and Race to Resilience

By Climate Champions | December 2, 2023

“Let’s build a future for healthy people on a healthy planet – together,” H.E Razan Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28.

Ambitious climate action is imperative to protect health. That’s why COP28’s ‘Health Day’ and first climate-health ministerial on 3 December an important acknowledgement on the climate calendar – that health is among the most critical sectors for adaptation and resilience, and that the transition to cleaner energy will not only cut emissions, but will also save lives.

In the Race to Zero, 77 health care institutions (ranging from provincial health departments to private health systems to public hospitals), representing the interests of thousands of hospitals and health centres, from 28 countries have joined Race To Zero since Health Care Without Harm became a Partner. This year, the first healthcare institution (PureHealth) from the MENA region joined the Race to Zero. These institutions have fully committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, with corresponding interim targets.

Taking Stock of the 2030 Breakthrough Outcome for Pharma and Medtech, 54 percent of the sector by revenue have joined the Race to Zero campaign, an increase from 46 percent the previous year. Progress towards the Breakthrough Outcome has also been swift, with over 63 percent of pharma and med tech companies in the campaign starting a My Green Lab Certification Program, signalling a significant step towards reaching the 2030 Breakthrough Outcome for the Pharma and Medtech Sector which states “95 percent of labs across major pharma and med tech companies are My Green Lab certified at the highest level by 2030.”

In the Race to Resilience, human health and wellbeing cannot be overlooked. Climate-related illnesses are surging, posing significant threats to mental health, vector-borne diseases are globally spreading and heat-induced mortality is increasing.

The impact of extreme heat is particularly concerning, causing potential labour hour losses, income reduction. Recognizing the urgency of addressing rising temperatures, Race to Resilience Partner the Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance (EHRA) aims to enhance the resilience of 500 million people by 2030. EHRA, consisting of over 60 organizations and individuals, and focuses on vulnerable populations, including women, and implementing solutions like parametric insurance, early warning systems, and shade structures to mitigate the adverse effects of extreme heat. Among the 2023 projects led by EHRA, two specific projects in India and Sierra Leone directly benefited more than 2,300 women, with potential to scale and benefit more than 2,000.000 people in the near future.

Race to Resilience Partner Sanitation Water for All (SWA), the largest global coalition of stakeholders advocating for water-sanitation-hygiene (WASH) continues enhancing the collaborations and working on the nexus  between climate action and WASH. In 2023, SWA’s Mutual Accountability Mechanism increased to  33 climate-focused commitments made by 22 different organizations.  During 2023, SWA provided Technical Assistance to Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Chad, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nepal, Nigeria, and Peru,  and the Secretariat of the Community of Lusophone Speaking Countries.

Today, 1 billion people live with mental health conditions and the climate crisis is putting an extra pressure on low and middle income countries. Acknowledging the impact of climate change on mental health, COP2, a global network comprising more than 460 organizations working at the multiple and growing intersections of community psychological resilience and climate change, is collaborating with Race to Resilience partners to integrate psychological resilience within various climate adaptation efforts, launching the Early Adopter initiatives to mainstream psychological resilience capacity.

To bring this to life, discover our member case studies below.

GSK is actively contributing to building health resilience to climate change. GSK is focusing on innovation for climate-sensitive diseases, strengthening health systems through partnerships, and investing in the protection and restoration of nature. GSK’s initiatives include developing urgently needed medicines and vaccines and currently on track to invest more than half of its £1bn global health R&D budget on climate-aggravated diseases disproportionately impacting lower-income countries, over the next 10 years. In addition GSK has partnered with Save the Children, and  announced further 5-year and £15 million commitment building on 10 years already working together. Together they are working to increase child vaccination rates, with a focus on reducing the number of ‘zero dose’ children in Ethiopia and Nigeria.

Terre des hommes Foundation (Terre des hommes) is an independent, neutral and impartial Swiss organization committed to bringing meaningful and lasting change to the lives of at risk children and youth. In July 2021, Terre des hommes signed a partnership agreement with the Climate Action Accelerator to co-create a climate and environmental roadmap aimed at defining effective emissions reduction targets and actions. The process led to the publication of the organization’s climate and environmental roadmap in August 2023, demonstrating Terre des hommes commitment to accelerating climate action throughout their humanitarian operations through the following steps:

  1. Measuring the carbon footprint of all and setting up an integrated monitoring system
  2. Adopting a decarbonization trajectory that takes into account the latest scientific warnings and aspires to align with the objectives of the Paris climate agreement – namely a reduction of the organisation’s carbon footprint by 50 percent by 2030
  3. Developing institutional and operational solutions to their environmental footprint while strengthening its social mission.
  4. Integrating the climate and environmental issues into the organization’s programmatic approach

By focusing on energy, waste, water, transport, procurement, and infrastructure the Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD) in Australia was able to save AU$2.2m through its sustainability initiatives, including installing the largest hospital solar installation in the world at John Hunter Hospital which will ultimately reduce carbon emissions by 2,700 tonnes annually.

Thiruppuvanam Vision Centre of Aravind Eye Care (India), launched an initiative to bridge the health care gap for their local community in need of improved access to eye care services while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions. The establishment of the Vision Centre, which provides satellite telemedicine, offered subsidised primary eye care services within a 7km radius. The centre operates with minimal electricity use and locally sourced medical equipment, keeping its carbon footprint low. The initiative has saved nearly 10,000 trips to the base hospital, resulting in a reduction of over 50 tCO2e emissions, while providing eye care to over 60,000 patients.



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