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Obesity, climate change, undernutrition to be addressed at first COP28 Health Day

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World governments are expected to pledge action on climate-induced health crises across the planet on Sunday as experts gather to tackle the intertwined challenges of obesity, climate change, and undernutrition on COP28’s first-ever Health Day.

Sunday marks the start of seven themed days looking at crucial climate issues and kicks off the first in-depth look at a COP on the impact of the crisis on human health.

Health Day has already seen a coalition of healthcare professionals and advocates form a coalition for evidence-based prevention, treatment, and management of obesity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Emphasizing the urgent need for collective action, MENA organizations have pledged to launch the Middle East and North African Association of Obesity in spring 2024 to tackle the region’s obesity challenges.

The MENA region currently grapples with some of the world’s highest obesity rates, and alarming projections indicate a substantial increase by 2035 without decisive action.

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With the World Obesity Federation predicting that nearly one in four children (64 million children) and one in three adults (212 million adults) in the Eastern Mediterranean region will be living with obesity by 2035, the coalition advocates for immediate collaboration to ensure necessary support for those affected.

The economic toll of overweight and obesity in the region, estimated at $70 billion in 2020, is expected to more than double to $163 billion by 2035, underscoring the pressing need for concerted action.

Dr. Sara Suliman, Chair of World Obesity’s Middle East and North Africa Working Group, said: “It is timely for those of us working in the obesity space to formalize our efforts and establish a regional obesity association that our respective national organizations would be proud to join. Our region has a successful history of cross-collaboration, and together, we have the tools and knowledge to treat patients to the highest standards, improve environments, and ultimately reduce obesity prevalence.”

The coalition commits to being at the forefront of implementing obesity policies and practices endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO), following the WHO 2022 Obesity Recommendations and its Acceleration Plan. At COP28, the coalition urges world leaders to recognize action on obesity as a crucial aspect of climate mitigation and allocate a greater proportion of financing to public health.

COP28 president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber speaks during a meeting at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai on December 2, 2023. (AFP)
COP28 president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber speaks during a meeting at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai on December 2, 2023. (AFP)



Johanna Ralston, CEO of the World Obesity Federation, expressed, “World Obesity is proud to support efforts in the Middle East and North Africa to establish a much-needed regional association of obesity. Each region has unique challenges, and a regional organization, supported by its national members, will be best placed to lead in ensuring that the WHO’s Obesity recommendations are appropriately implemented.”

Preceding Health Day, 123 countries committed to signing the UAE’s health declaration on Saturday, a commitment to meet and collaborate on policies, health systems, response to the impact of climate, reducing waste, curbing emissions, sharing best practices, and more.

A further package of solutions lined up to address the climate resource gap for conflict-affected countries are also expected to be discussed as part of the Relief, Recovery, and Peace Day on December 3.

The anticipated increase in mortality from 2030 to 2050 is driven by a multitude of health issues linked to climate change. It is projected that an additional 250,000 deaths per year will occur due to the evolving environment. In the coming decades, millions of extra fatalities are foreseen, primarily attributed to climate-related factors like undernutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, and heat stress. These consequences transcend the realm of health, impacting essential sectors such as agriculture, water, and sanitation.

Wildlife Conservation Society’s Executive Director of Global Health Dr. Chris Walzer: said: “This is about the health, wellbeing, and survival of millions of individuals across the globe, including Indigenous Peoples and traditional place-based communities disproportionately affected by the catastrophic effects of a warming planet.”

”The climate emergency is not just an environmental problem. Over the past year, climate-induced wildfires, floods and heatwaves, paired with emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases all over the world, have affected human health and wellbeing and weakened the ability of healthcare systems to respond to the crisis.”

”The evolving climate emergency is having a significant impact on the prevalence and spread of numerous infectious and non-communicable diseases and is causing pain and suffering due to flooding, heatwaves, poor air quality, and other extremes resulting from the climate crisis. The re-emergence of diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, and West Nile virus in regions previously unaffected and ever-increasing respiratory and cardio-vascular impacts from air pollution underscores the risks associated with climate change and environmental destruction. These human-engendered shifts underscore the heightened threats to global health posed by our changing world.”

What has happened at COP28 so far?

The World Climate Action Summit concluded Saturday after world leaders issued an impassioned call-to-action on climate change.

Dennis Francis, President of the UN General Assembly, told the UN conference that previous “feeble efforts” were not enough to turn the tide of climate change, but said he believed that the Dubai talks could be “triumphant” in results.

“While our world is fraught with global challenges, perhaps none looms as much or as consequential as the climate crisis. The Paris Agreement remains the best answer to the myriad effects of the climate crisis. Living up to the letter and spirit of the Paris promise is the ultimate goal of our deliberations,” he said.

The chief of the world’s International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, said Saturday world needs “to put our money where our mouth is” and find the $5 trillion needed for climate finance.

While, Britain’s King Charles said on Friday the world was “dreadfully far off track” on addressing climate change and that the global economy would be in peril unless the environment was rapidly repaired.

FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured outside a building of the World Health Organization (WHO) during an executive board meeting on update on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Geneva, Switzerland, April 6, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured outside a building of the World Health Organization (WHO) during an executive board meeting on update on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Geneva, Switzerland, April 6, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo



The summit has witnessed a remarkable series of commitments spanning finance, food systems, renewable energy, reduction of coal usage, advocacy for nuclear power, and substantial pledges from major oil and gas corporations to curtail CO2 and methane emissions,.

In addition to these efforts, a minimum of $1 billion in grant funding is earmarked to address the urgent need for reducing methane levels in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Dr. Sultan al-Jaber, the President of Cop28, spearheaded the opening session on Thursday, inaugurating the loss and damage fund.

By Friday, the first preliminary draft text of the “global stocktake” was released.

This stocktake represents the world’s inaugural assessment of the Paris Agreement, aiming to limit temperature increases to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels.

During the summit, global leaders endorsed a UAE declaration on food and climate action.

Simultaneously, the UAE pledged $30 billion in climate finance, addressing global funding challenges. The comprehensive food initiative includes a commitment to reduce emissions from farming – which accounts for roughly a third of the world’s greenhouse gas footprint – by transitioning to more environmentally friendly practices.

On Saturday, fifty oil and gas companies, responsible for over 40% of global oil production, pledged actions to mitigate methane and carbon dioxide emissions. Moreover, 116 countries committed to tripling worldwide renewable energy capacity by 2030. Further, countries, philanthropies, and industries unveiled over $1 billion in grant funding dedicated to methane reduction.

The agenda shifts focus to finance on Monday, followed by discussions on energy, a “just transition,” and indigenous peoples on Tuesday. These themes will continue until the final two days of the summit, December 11 and 12, exclusively reserved for negotiations.

Read more:

UAE announces $1 bln finance for climate and health, 123 nations agree to declaration

Private sector funding at forefront of climate financing, asset managers urge reform

IMF chief says $5 trillion needed in climate finance

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