CSH@COP26 Day 1: World leaders join as the climate and health agenda gains momentum

Chantelle Rizan, CSH associate and Victoria Stanford, Education Fellow attended COP26 on monday as representatives for CSH. This marks the first day of the COP26 World Leaders Summit which sees heads of states journey to the conference venue to give their statements on their ambitions, goals and expectations for the climate change summit. As world leaders gathered in Glasgow, notable exceptions included China and Russia which puts into question the extent to which we can expect a coordinated global response on climate action. Most countries have already submitted their updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which contain their targets for carbon emissions in coming years. These updated targets will fail to limit global temperature rise beyond the level at which we can expect catastrophic consequences on human health. Antonio Gueterres, UN Secretary, commented that even where pledges were ‘clear and credible..we are still careening towards climate catastrophe’. Fortunately, countries such as India presented Net Zero targets which were unexpectedly ambitious although behind those of the US, China and Europe. Equally, calls were made for enhanced financial support to support low and middle-income countries to meet their emission targets and build on adaptation.

As the world leaders set the tone for negotiations which launch on wednesday, the delegate-only Blue Zone hosted events from across civil society, industry and government. Importantly for CSH, health was high on the agenda for many of these events. 

The EU hosted a panel discussion on Climate Change and Europe-an event aimed at sharing knowledge of the health impacts of climate change within the world’s most vulnerable region for the heat-related effects of climate change.  CSH delegates were able to attend this event also aimed at sharing ambitions and knowledge of mitigation and adaptation strategies, with particular emphasis placed on health co-benefits of climate action and the importance of placing health in the centre of all climate policies. Members of the EU Health and Climate Observatory presented its work as a solution for bringing climate science closer to policy-makers, a much needed step for building adaptation efforts in the region. 

CSH were also able to attend an event convened by the UK Pavilion and GSK on how the NHS and industry can work towards Net Zero healthcare. Whilst this event highlighted the relative progress made by private sector leads at both GSK and Microsoft in working towards reducing supply-chain related carbon emissions, Lord David Prior Chair of NHS England engaged in post-event discussions with CSH delegates on the importance of transitioning towards a prevention-based healthcare system. It is clear that whilst industry suppliers may promise to move towards using more renewable energy sources, sustainable healthcare will require more structural, systematic changes that will prioritise a population health- based approach to achieving better, more sustainable health.  

These events helped the climate and health agenda to gain momentum, and we join the WHO and the wider health community in calling for health to placed in the centre of all climate change policies. There is already a building sense of recognition of the critical interdependency between the health of our planet and human wellbeing at CO26, and we as an organisation look forward to working with other health and non-health delegates to continue to push the health and climate agenda. 

quote from vicki stanford csh

What are our specific demands as leaders in sustainable healthcare and how can we support them?  

We call on governments and health sector leads to: 

1. Invest in the transition to environmentally sustainable healthcare systems to ensure all health systems are Net Zero by 2040 

-> CSH can provide support to healthcare organisations to assess their systems using the triple bottom line approach which is a key tool for securing financial investment.

2. Develop and fund expertise and infrastructure for the transition to environmentally sustainable healthcare systems  

  1. Curriculum change and education 
  2. Specific budgets for Green Plans/sustainability teams in hospitals 
  3. Invest in solutions with longer-term returns 
  4. Prioritise research into sustainable solutions 
  5. Integrate sustainability into commissioning, regulation and legislation 
  6. Collaborate with all players in the supply chain to de-carbonise medical devices and pharmaceuticals 

-> CSH can educate the health workforce on sustainable healthcare principles and work with standard-setters to incorporate sustainability into education for healthcare curriculum. We run introduction and advanced courses on sustainability in healthcare and work with healthcare organisations to transition models of healthcare through our Sustainability in Quality Improvement program, Sustainable Specialties ProgramGreen Ward competitions and Carbon Footprinting expertise.

3. Prioritise a nature-based approach to health system change which is disease-prevention and health-promotion focused 

The benefits to health of good quality, biodiverse green space should be recognized by all healthcare organisations. 

  1. All staff and patients at healthcare sites should have access to green space for their wellbeing  
  2. Green space should be used as a resource for prevention, health promotion, treatment and rehabilitation in both physical and mental health. 

-> CSH runs pilot projects which demonstrate how green space can be used as a resource for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation in both physical and mental health. We work to ensure that all staff and patients at healthcare sites and the wider community have access to green space for their wellbeing

Stay up to date with health news from COP26

Through the representation of 10 members of our network, the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare (CSH) is attending the ‘Blue Zone’ negotiations and presidency programme events as an official observer. To increase transparency and feedback to the health community throughout the COP26 summit, CSH is publishing a daily recap blog summarising the latest developments, health implications, and potential solutions. These blogs will be linked from our CSH@COP26 page.

Please read and share them with your networks. To receive our weekly COP26 recap straight to your email inbox, you can sign up to receive our newsletters. 



Victoria Stanford, CSH Education Project Fellow