A day at the COP - D3

COP28: Health declaration 'puts human faces in these discussions'

The 28th Climate Conference opened on Thursday 30 December for twelve days in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) with a record number of nearly 80,000 participants. Every evening, "A Day at the COP" summarises the main news, announcements and reactions of the day. The newspaper also takes a look at the many players in the world. For the first time in the history of the COPs, an entire day was dedicated to human health, which has been battered by climate change. And there is work to be done, warn the players in the sector but also young people.

Macurungo, Mozambique, 28 March 2019. Patients suffering from diarrhoea receive care, while cholera cases are reported after a cyclone has passed. Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

By: Géraud Bosman-Delzons Follow


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L'ESSENTIEL (by the editorial staff of RFI)

A declaration for health. Signed by 123 countries, it "marks the recognition of the growing effects of climate change on health," according to the COP presidency's press release. Above all, it recognises the "benefits of climate action on the health of populations", such as the fight against air pollution and the reduction of the cost of care. A few pledges of "new" donations promised by the presidency: 300 million from the Global Fund, 100 million from the Rockefeller Foundation, 68 million from the United Kingdom...

Although it does not commit in any way, it is in the eyes of the sector's players a necessary first step. "We are very happy to finally have this declaration, which has been requested for several years by the WHO, the ICRC, MSF and others. It makes it possible to put human faces in these discussions, which concern each person but which are above all very technical," Stephen Cornish, director general of Doctors Without Borders, told RFI at the end of the inter-ministerial meeting. "Now we need to know how we are implementing to meet the needs that are growing and alarming." In particular, it retains the promises of exchanges of technical cooperation. "These so-called natural disasters are becoming more recurrent and their impacts stronger, wider geographically as well. In Madagascar and Mozambique, they have cyclones that follow one another and lead to floods, the destruction of food production, diseases... Before, there were malaria peaks, now it's all year round. These societies are becoming more and more fragile. They need to be helped to strengthen health structures and capacities. The next step for the humanitarian leader is to "ensure that the health component is intertwined in all the negotiations" in order to respond in a global way, calling for not treating the symptoms but the disease: "We know the disease and the cure to follow: the end of fossil fuel releases." (Read also in the IMAGE OF THE DAY below)

Brazilian President Lula confirms that his country will join OPEC+. The objective put forward by the Brazilian president on Saturday in Dubai is to "convince the main oil-producing countries" to prepare for the energy transition "without fossil fuels". We reported here on Thursday that the club of oil-producing countries had invited Latin America's leading oil power to join it. This confirmation of Brazil's membership in OPEC+ has drawn criticism from environmental groups. "Brazil says one thing, but does another thing at COP28. It is unacceptable that the country that claims to defend the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, is now announcing its alignment with the group of the world's largest oil producers," Leandro Ramos of Greenpeace's Brazilian branch said in a statement. Lula is running at COP28 as a champion of the fight against global warming, but he is also being criticized because of an oil exploration project near the mouth of the Amazon. (With AFP)

Pope Francis in a video with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University Ahmed Al-Tayeb, considered the highest authority in Sunni Islam. Both faces appeared at the first Pavilion of Faith in the history of the COPs. The two religious leaders signed a "Call to Conscience" for urgent climate action. Greeting the pope as "my dear brother," the Muslim leader sees the statement as "a valuable opportunity to strengthen efforts to protect our common environment from imminent destruction, which is likely to worsen year by year." The pontiff, author of an ecological encyclical with worldwide resonance, had to cancel his visit on the eve of the opening of the conference on the advice of his doctors. In an apostolic exhortation published on 4 October, he described COP28 as a turning point: "If we sincerely want COP28 to be historic, to honour and ennoble us as human beings, we can only expect forms of energy transition that have three characteristics: effective, binding and easily controllable; This is in order to initiate a new radical, intense process that counts on the commitment of all. Francis had already visited the United Arab Emirates in 2019 as part of the interfaith dialogue, the first head of the Catholic Church to set foot on the soil of the Arabian Peninsula, the cradle of Islam.

Today marked the inauguration of the Faith Pavilion at COP28. Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, the inauguration was attended by His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Tolerance and... pic.twitter.com/RqhwQxPynB

— COP28 UAE (@COP28_UAE) December 3, 2023

Al Gore is squeezing the host country. The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) still claims to have no methane or other emissions from its oil and gas transport. But in fact there are! You can see them from space," the former vice president of Bill Clinton proclaimed in the plenary hall of the COP as he stood in front of the image of a blue speck above an oil field, projected on the giant screen. "These are major sites of greenhouse gas emissions. All these are significant emission sites in the United Arab Emirates," pointing to the climate record of the host Arab Emirates, going so far as to denounce the carbon footprint of Adnoc, the national oil company headed by the president of the conference, Sultan Al-Jaber. Behind him appears a map of the United Arab Emirates, with its main emitting sites: oil fields, desalination plants... A great climate activist, Al Gore was invited to present the latest data from the Climate TRACE website, the first to estimate, from a network of 300 satellites aided by artificial intelligence, the real emissions of more than 352 million sites around the world, in ten sectors: heavy industry, energy, agriculture, transport, waste...


The cascading consequences of water pollution, air pollution, meteorology and climate disasters on the health of populations are sadly known and documented for a long time, as the latest Lancet Countdown report pointed out. The effects of climate change on mental health are much less so. However, as global warming progresses, this phenomenon is also gaining momentum, even if there is a lack of figures on this subject, acknowledge the specialists on the subject interviewed at the COP.

Young NGO activists warn of the dangers of climate change on health, in the COP28 gallery in Dubai, December 3, 2023. © Géraud Bosman-Delzons/RFI

Young people are particularly affected by the problem. "They know their future will be worse than ours," said Stephen Cornish, MSF's executive director. They also know that the necessary measures are not being taken. It's very hard for a young person to see that the adults who are supposed to love them are not doing what they should be doing to protect them. So they organize themselves by taking action, because action is hope.


Head of the health working group at UN Climate Change's Youth Group, Oumnia Anfer, 21, is also a medical student in Casablanca. It was in these capacities that she was invited to speak in front of the large hall full of young people from all over the world. Found at the Youth Pavilion, just two kilometres away, she tells us: "If you go to the cardiology wards in the summer, there are more and more patients who have heart problems, such as strokes, because of the heat which affects blood circulation. It exacerbates the incidence of heart disease. The same goes for pulmonology departments. These are costly diseases, with a panoply of services that are underfunded, not only in Morocco. The World Health Organization recalled before the COP that heat-related deaths among people over 65 have increased by 70% over the past two decades.

Oumnia Anfer, a representative of the Youth Group at COP28, December 3, 2023. © Géraud Bosman-Delzons/RFI

Eco-anxiety is one of the derivatives of mental health effects (link). "If you're having trouble eating, doing a job, planning for the future, it makes you anxious. This can result in heart difficulties but also eating too much or too much sugar, which leads to diabetes... " says Stephen Cornsih. " "We can take the case of a farmer whose only source of income is his land, fruits and vegetables, and which he can no longer cultivate and meet the needs of his family," adds Oumnia Anfer. This will create in him a feeling of inadequacy, of depreciation, compared to his father in the case of traditional cultures. This can lead to anxiety, depression or traumatic syndromes. And maybe intra-family violence, against women, children... The system is not prepared for these kinds of problems.


Both experts agree that this phenomenon is not yet supported by figures. "There is no global or even national census of the effects on mental health," says Oumnia Anfer. We know the causes and consequences, but politicians always want more evidence before acting.


At the COP on Sunday, youth representatives made their case to the negotiators in a meeting we attended. They hope to see the demands contained in their "Declaration" taken to the highest level of the negotiations. Of the three relating to health: "consider the severe impacts of climate change on health and well-being". To achieve this, states "must ensure the training of care personnel on the impacts on mental health and encourage research.



« Climate change is not just about temperatures »

Meet Osai Ojigho, Director of Public Policy at Christian Aid, here.

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