CSH@COP26 Day 6: Global land-use and health implications

Today discussions were focused on global natural landscapes and land-use. Victoria Stanford, Aarti Bansal and Tamsin Ellis were joined today by Andriele Madison, CSH’s Green Space Communities Lead.

Our food systems (including agricultural practices and deforestation linked to food production) are currently responsible for approximately one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. One of the overarching themes of nature day has been, therefore, about the acknowledgment of historical systematic failures in creating opportunities for a shift toward sustainable food production.

Our team attended a multinational conversation including ministers and farmers where several countries supporting the Forests, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Dialogue shared examples of national efforts on land protection, sustainable trade development, and new programmes to support small land owners.

“We are nature, we live with nature, we depend on nature and we need to look after nature if we are to live” - Espen Barth Eide- Minister of Climate and Environment, Norway

The panel called for rural subsidies around the globe to be tied to climate emissions and nutritional goals as a move toward a healthier planet and population.

In the afternoon, we attended a session on the role of nature and land use in the delivery of the Paris goals set in 2015, which are aimed at limiting global warming preferably below 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels. Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are the basis for achieving targets set in the Paris Agreement and these goals are also key to the development of national policies which protect and expand green space and invest in nature based-solutions.

Although 194 countries have submitted their first NDCs, which include nature adaptability and mitigation plans, there are major gaps that need to be addressed.

“Despite the importance of nature and nature-based solutions, they receive only about 3% of total climate finance” – Lord Goldsmith- Minister for the Pacific and the Environment at the Foreign Commonwealth and DEFRA, UK

Agreements at COP include the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, established on day two of the conference, which brings together 133 nation-states in an initiative to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. Also, the new Global Forest Finance Pledge which provides $12 billion (£8.75 billion) in forest-specific climate finance hopes to begin to address this gap.

Why is this important for health?

Nature-based solutions have the potential to provide over one-third of the CO2 emissions reductions needed by 2030 to meet the goal of keeping climate warming within 1.5°C. Additionally, they can maximise gains for health and well-being, particularly for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations in the form of cleaner air, climate resilient communities, and access to spaces which promote physical and mental health, among many other benefits.

A stronger emphasis on linking nature, climate change, and health is still needed. The health sector has the potential for a very strong voice in the active promotion of nature as a therapeutic and health-preserving resource by increasing green space access for patients and communities, and by designing health interventions which promote biodiversity protection (green walking, gardening, green prescribing, allotments), resulting in a holistic approach to human and planetary health.

CSH is working closely with the health system to encourage nature-based solutions for climate and health:

  • We are encouraging healthcare (NHS) sites to plant trees through our tree sponsorship scheme
  • We are encouraging NHS sites to improve the ecological value of their sites through our Nature Recovery Ranger programme, which embeds rangers at NHS sites where they run eco-activities and act as advocates for biodiversity and nature recovery at those sites.  
  • We report and promote the evidence base on the connections between nature and health and encourage NHS sites to develop their green spaces for the benefit of health and wellbeing, including patient recovery and rehabilitation, staff wellbeing, and community amenity and recreation. 
  • We offer a Green Space and Health course which explores the evidence, showcases examples of green prevention and therapy and illustrates how you can integrate these into your own practice. 

Learn more about our Green Space for Health Programme, here, and visit the NHS Forest to place a tree order. Your contribution will help expand the NHS Forest and the creation of green spaces for health and wellbeing.