On the first day of the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, a coalition of humanitarian agencies, including WHO and other United Nations organizations, Red Cross/Red Crescent and nongovernmental organizations, jointly emphasized the urgency of taking prompt adaptation action on climate change and called for a strong and binding global climate change agreement which protects the poorest and most vulnerable.
WHO, along with the other members of the Committee, is technically an observer of the climate change talks. WHO role is to support and encourage the negotiators from the Member States to ensure that health impacts of climate change are addressed in a strong climate change agreement. As with all such occasions, the inclusion of a word or a phrase in a sentence makes all the difference. In this case it could facilitate countries’ efforts to prioritize new health initiatives and health system reform in their plans to combat climate change and adopt mitigation measures.
At the talks, on the opening day, the IASC group made a joint statement at the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action under the Convention, as follows:
Inter-Agency Standing Committee observer statement at the COP15 Opening Day on 7 December 2009
- On behalf of the agencies of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, including the United Nations, the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement and the nongovernmental organizations, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak at this Opening day of COP15
- As a coalition of humanitarian actors we have joined forces to raise awareness of the humanitarian impacts of climate change and to call for urgent adaptation action to climate change
- Climate change is already affecting millions of people worldwide every year through increasingly frequent, intense and non-seasonal floods, storms and droughts. Those that suffer the most are the poorest and most vulnerable in risk-prone countries. These people lack the resources to adapt to, or cope with, the rapidly changing climate patterns
- Humanitarian agencies are already seeing increased food insecurity, public health threats, migration and displacement, and other related consequences. We are deeply concerned with how we can urgently help the most vulnerable adapt to their changing reality
- Current national and international humanitarian systems do not have the capacity to respond to increased demand from climate related impacts and therefore require additional resources
- We need a strong and binding global climate change agreement, which protects the poorest and most vulnerable. Such an agreement must help us avert or reduce the worst humanitarian consequences of climate change.
- We must also look beyond Copenhagen to the critical early measures, commitments and resources needed now to help national governments help their people adapt
- Disaster risk reduction, disaster preparedness and response are vital front-line defenses for vulnerable communities, especially in risk-prone parts of the world. While humanitarian organizations will continue to respond to weather and climate related crisis and disasters, we can also help to reduce the impacts of extreme weather and climate change through disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness systems.
- Immediate action is urgent and daunting. We call on you to come to an agreement in Copenhagen that will give better protection of those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.