UN climate talks are focusing on the contagious effect on human health


With Planet Earth running a fever, UN climate talks focused on Sunday on the contagious effects on human health.


Under a brown haze over Dubai, the COP28 summit moved past two days of lofty rhetoric and calls for unity from top leaders to concerns about health issues like the deaths of at least 7 million people globally from air pollution each year and the spread of diseases like cholera and malaria as global warming upends weather systems.


World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it’s high time for the UN Conference of Parties on climate to hold its first “Health Day” in its 28th edition, saying the threats to health from climate change were “immediate and present”. “Although the climate crisis is a health crisis, it’s well overdue that 27 COPs have been and gone without a serious discussion of health,” he said. “Undoubtedly, health stands as the most compelling reason for taking climate action.”

After two days of speeches by dozens of presidents, prime ministers, royals and other top leaders — in the background and on-stage — participants were also turning attention to tough negotiations over the next nine days to push for more agreement on ways to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times.


Pope Francis, who was forced to abandon plans to attend because of a case of bronchitis, on Sunday said that “even from a distance, I am following with great attention the work”.


In remarks read at the Vatican by an aide, the pope called for an end of what he called “bottlenecks” caused by nationalism and “patterns of the past”.


Protests began in earnest on Sunday at COP28: In one, a group gave mock resuscitation to an inflatable Earth.


“Well, I mean, it’s cheesy doing CPR on the Earth,” said Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room physician from Alberta, Canada, who took part. “We’re kind of in a lot of trouble right now,” he said, so will do “anything we can do to bring attention to this issue”.


Saturday capped off with conference organisers announcing that 50 oil and gas companies had agreed to reach near-zero methane emissions and end routine flaring in their operations by 2030. They also pledged to reach “net zero” for their operational emissions by 2050.


UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “the promises made clearly fall short of what is required”.


In comments on Sunday, he called the methane emissions reductions “a step in the right direction.” But he criticised the net zero pledge for excluding emissions from fossil fuel consumption — where the vast majority of the industry’s greenhouse gases come from — and said the announcement provided no clarity on how the companies planned to reach their goals. “There must be no room for greenwashing,” he said.

COP28 at a glance

– Top charities of the world draws $777 million to fight tropical disease 

– The US led a group of more than 20 countries in a pledge to triple nuclear energy capacity by the middle of the century

– US Vice President Kamala Harris touted a pledge to contribute $3 billion to slash methane

– Scientists launch research coalition aimed at correcting a historic lack of information about the Congo River basin and its rainforest

– The European Union will Invest €2.3 billion in green transition

– Indonesia, ADB, owners agree to shutter first coal-fired power station 

– France leads a push to cut off private coal finance flowing from banks in Group of Seven nations


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