Here in Durban, medical students, health professionals and experts, WHO and some specific country delegates are targeting the same neglected issue: the position of health in the climate change negotiations. This is important in order to achieve a Fair, Ambitious and legally Binding global treaty (FAB) for reduction in green house gases that recognises the key impacts of climate change on health and takes health into account when planning and implementing mitigation and adaptation efforts.
Myself and Beth from UCL have been focusing on the specific issue of health in the Shared Vision Text (SVT). Now you might wonder what the Shared Vision Text is, and it is simply the pre-amble to a future FAB treaty, outlining key agreed principles of Long-term Cooperative Action. The current draft version of the SVT contains no reference to health at all, which we believe is extremely dangerous. Our main entry point here has been to highlight and raise awareness of health impacts as one of the overarching reasons for acting against climate change. Our tactic has been to approach different groups and parties to explain the health message and why it is so important that it be included in the text. Most of the negotiators we have met have welcomed our approach and have been keen to hear our input.
The official negotiations on SVT are mostly in closed sessions only open to “pink badges” meaning that only official country delegates are allowed to attend the meetings. This leaves us constantly blind to unfolding events and it is a challenge to pursue specific countries to actually get the information from them directly about latest developments. The draft text was released on Saturday and it is ten pages long. The negotiators are attempting to cut it down to one or two pages, so at this stage attempting to introduce new material is no mean feat! Whilst we’d ideally love to see a whole paragraph on health, if we can even get a small reference to health into the text that would be a huge achievement. Since the SVT is just the pre-amble, a reference to health there would theoretically lead to further discussion of health at further points in the treaty document. It is a starting point and we need to get health on the agenda.
So far, the negotiations are going very slowly and the Parties all want different things in the text. It is looking increasingly likely that a final version of the SVT will not be agreed at COP17. This is all the more reason for us to continue lobbying ministers to include the health message at future negotiations. The more we can raise the profile now of the key role for health in the SVT, the more likely it is to make it into future negotiations. Let’s share the health vision!
On behalf of the health community present in Durban
Usman A. Mushtaq and Elizabeth Alexandra Finch