United for Global Mental Health’s response to COP28 Declaration on Climate & Health

Written by Alessandro Massazza , Policy & Advocacy Advisor at United for Global Mental Health.

COP28 Declaration on climate & health

This year’s COP – COP28 – is the first to have a day dedicated to health. A historic moment which includes Ministries of Health and their staff coming together for a Climate & Health Ministerial meeting as part of a Health Day taking place today on the 3rd of December with more than 60 Ministers of Health from across the world taking part and more than 80 have sent staff from Ministries of Health. 

As part of Health Day, the COP28 Declaration on Climate and Health has been launched following many rounds of intergovernmental consultations across 2023 and informed by the World Health Organization.

According to Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, COP28 President-Designate and UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change: “In this year of the Global Stocktake, the declaration speaks to the urgency of sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and dramatic enhancements of adaptation and resilience. It is intended as a clear signal of ambition and unity on health as we implement the Paris Agreement.

The Declaration represents an important and long overdue high-level political statement recognising the negative impacts that climate change is having on health. The Declaration calls for an advancement of climate-resilient development, the strengthening of health systems, and the building of resilient and thriving communities, for the benefit of today’s generations, and those of future generations. 

We welcome the inclusion of a specific reference to mental health and psychosocial wellbeing within this Declaration which commits to: “Promoting a comprehensive response to address the impacts of climate change on health, including, for example, mental health and psychosocial wellbeing, loss of traditional medicinal knowledge, loss of livelihoods and culture, and climate-induced displacement and migration.”

The inclusion of mental health represents an important milestone given that mental health has traditionally received little attention in the climate change policy space and is a testament to the increasing attention this topic is receiving thanks to the work of many stakeholders. We very much hope this represents a first step towards increased integration of mental health considerations within national and international plans to address climate change, and are ready to work to support this.

The Declaration concludes by committing to pursuing the better integration of health considerations into climate policy processes, and of climate considerations across health policy agendas. This includes taking health into account in designing the next round of nationally determined contributions, long term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies, national adaptation plans and adaptation communications. 

As United for Global Mental Health we will continue to advocate for this integration to always consider mental health along with physical health in order to ensure that everyone has the right to enjoy the highest attainable level of mental health, even in the context of a changing and ever-challenging climate. 

You can access our policy briefs outlining different mechanisms to achieve this here