OPN COP27 climate
An artwork at the Green Zone during the COP27 climate summit at the Sharm Al Sheikh International Convention Centre, in Egypt's Red Sea resort of the same name, on November 7, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

The annual UN climate summit (COP27) started this weekend in Sharm Al-Sheikh, Egypt. While the world has already reached its climate tipping point, there is no credible pathway in sight at present to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C.

The current pledges on carbon emission, if the countries can respect it completely, the global heating by the end of the century will reach 2.5 degrees C, which will be catastrophic.

The G20 nations, which account for almost 80 per cent of the carbon emission, need to cooperate and take the lead in climate action. However, that looks very remote, given the current global geopolitics.

The discussion and negotiations in COP27 are expected to focus primarily on reducing carbon emissions and how to provide financial and technical help to developing countries to prepare them to face climate change.

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These issues are not as simple as they sound. Climate finance has become a critical complication as developed countries refuse to pay for loss and damage.

Goal of $100 billion per year

Even the goal of $100 billion per year for climate finance by 2020 is yet to be achieved. On the other hand, several large developing countries such as China, India, Brazil, South Africa, and Indonesia are not pledging to move away from fossil fuels, particularly coal, as fast as developed countries expect them to do.

Since 1992, these climate summits have been taking place almost every year. Unfortunately, though time is running out very fast, three decades of negotiations have not made satisfactory progress. While the climate situation is becoming more precarious, carbon emission is still rising. In 2021, methane emissions, a dangerous greenhouse gas, have seen a significant surge.

The current commitments of nations will increase global emissions by 10.6 per cent by the end of this decade compared to 2010 levels.

The failure to move away from fossil fuels has already intensified the climate crisis, posing the biggest health threat to humanity. WHO says that it “threatens to undo the last fifty years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction, and further to widen existing health inequalities between and within populations.”

More on COP27

While the world leaders continue to haggle, hundreds of millions of people on the planet are already facing the wrath of climate change, affecting their physical and mental health.

Human-induced global warming has already caused widespread disruptions in nature, endangering the lives of a large number of people. An increasing number of intensified heatwaves, droughts, and floods surpass the tolerance limits of plants, animals, and humans, resulting in mass mortalities.

The unusual heat and cold waves are resulting in around deaths of 5 million people annually. Carbon emission-caused air pollution takes away 2 million human lives every year. The human cost of climate change is not easy to count, but its negative impact on human health is overwhelming.

Climate change-induced disasters force millions of people to move. In 2021 alone, nearly 24 million people were displaced due to disasters. The forced displacement causes trauma and loss of dignity, affects mental health, and damages social cohesion and available support structure.

Though mental health consequences of climate change don’t occur in isolation, it is, however, important to realise the extent to which climate change impacts human health and well-being.

Furthermore, climate change also seriously impacts social causes that promote good health, like sustainable livelihoods, social support, and equality and access to health care. Global warming affects access and quality of health services, leads to health system disruptions, and exacerbates existing inequities in health care.

Air pollution and climate change have already added $820 billion to US healthcare costs every year. Climate change also greatly affects food security at various levels by disrupting food availability and decreasing access to food.

Participants walk at the Sharm Al Sheikh International Convention Centre, on the first day of the COP27 climate summit, in Egypt's Red Sea resort city of Sharm Al Sheikh, on November 6, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

There is no doubt that climate change endangers human health and well-being in multiple ways affecting all sectors of society and at all levels. Even creating innovative health policies for the future has become very complicated due to uncertainty in predicting environmental change.

While climate change has already created havoc for millions of people, with their life, health, and well-being, across the globe, the world’s leaders can’t afford to put off climate action any longer.

It has been delayed long enough. The COP27 in Egypt provides them another opportunity to discuss and negotiate a coordinated response to climate change. The COP26, last year in Glasgow, had created a big hope, but it didn’t deliver fully.

Thirty thousand delegates and nearly 100 world leaders are coming together again for COP27, and hopefully, they will focus on the urgency of climate action. The fast-deteriorating planet’s health can’t afford any postponement of climate negotiation.

The countries need to revisit their climate plans to make them stronger and bolder and implement them faster to save the planet and people’s lives and health from climate emergencies.