Javier Abi-Saab (Fiocruz News Agency)
The past few years have been frustrating for the international climate change agenda. The United Nations Convention on Climate Change (COP25) took place in 2019 in Madrid, but it was far from peaceful, after its cancellation in Brazil and in Chile. Many issues were left to be solved the following year, but in 2020, for the first time, the Convention did not happen, because of the pandemic. There is much catching up to be done and high expectations for COP26, which will take place in Glasgow, Scotland, in November this year. This was the evaluation done by ambassador Rubens Ricupero during the Advanced Seminar on International Relations and Health Diplomacy, organized by the Fiocruz Global Health Center (CRIS/Fiocruz). The event was held last Thursday, May 26, and its goal was to tackle the problem of climate change and to localize it within the context of health diplomacy.
An authority in the theme of climate change diplomacy, Ricupero highlighted that we are currently at the beginning of the trajectory towards Glasgow, and there is much as stake during this journey. He explained that the Convention intends to operationalize the commitments made at the 2015 Paris Accord, whose preamble sets out a quantitative commitment to prevent the increase in Earth’s temperature from exceeding 2° C. “We know this 2-degree increase would be accompanied by huge catastrophes, which is why today we talk about avoiding a 1.5-degree increase. But this is seemingly a very hard goal to reach, as since the Industrial Era the planet has already seen its temperature increase by 1.2° C”, Ricupero said.
The Paris Agreement adopted contributions that voluntarily determined contributions, which means that each country is free to decide on its own greenhouse effect reduction policy. For Ricupero, the problem is that the sum of the results of the goals of all the countries is way behind the objective of preventing the 1.5-degree rise. “The United Nations Program for the Environment has come to the conclusion that if all countries did everything they have been promising, which they have not been doing, projections point to a rise of 3° C”, he explained. In this sense, between now and Glasgow we should be able to advance in three large issues: a substantial improvement of the level of ambition of the commitments; the creation of a 100-billion fund for the most vulnerable countries; and an improvement in the system of tradable carbon emission certificates. “These three issues are still unsolved, and we should be able to see some improvement in their regard until Glasgow comes”, Ricupero said.
The Advanced Seminar was also attended by John Balbus, leader of the international area of the Environmental Health Science Institute of the National Health Institute, who presented the main research projects, advancements and challenges of the Institute and explained how the USA is preparing for Glasgow. Lastly, Daniel Buss, regional coordinator of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) on climate change, highlighted the situation in the Americas and the main strategies adopted by the organization to include, in a systematic manner, the intersection between health and climate change in the agenda of countries of the region. “There have been significant steps made in the past few years and the subject has been better received by the ministries, but the health sector is still weak when it comes to incorporating climate change to its own lists of priorities”, mentioned Buss, for whom a preventive approach on health problems can save millions of lives and have a significant impact on quality of life in the region.