In the current difficult humanitarian, geopolitical and economic context, we cannot afford to lose sight of the interconnectedness and the interplay of the issues related to, and emerging as a result of the challenge brought by climate change.
Charles Mwangi, Acting Executive Director of Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), said this during a session that focused on tackling climate-related health and gender problems that was held on the sidelines of the on-going Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali.
Participants at the session highlighted that it’s mostly women who are disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which aggravates existing gender disparities.
Some of these effects exacerbate existing social and economic inequalities including poor quality of air, food, and housing quality, disproportionately harming the health of disadvantaged populations in both developed and middle and low-income countries.
For example, maternal health becomes an issue, increase of GBV prevalence, lack of access to Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights services and negatively impacting family planning. It also limits their education opportunities and income generation, increasing their exposure to violence.
Dr. Philip Osano, Centre Director of Stockholm Environment Institute and Africa Centre said, tackling short-lived pollutants such as methane on farms and fumes in public transport and homes could support addressing the Paris Agreement goal of below the 1.5ºC.
“This is the critical point above which, the temperature would pose large and escalating risks to human life, and governments have used that number as an organising principle. It indicates that the climate-triggered losses and damages occurring in the African continent have profound health implications.”
Speaking to The New Times, Osano disclosed that without policy interventions, close to 1 million people could lose their lives due to outdoor pollution.
“We found that reducing greenhouse gas emissions could prevent approximately 0.5 million premature deaths due to air pollution in 2030 and 1.3 million in 2050 as well as 2.2 million in 2100. The economic value of these health benefits was estimated at between $50 and $380 for every ton of carbon dioxide cut, which is greater than the predicted cost of reducing greenhouse gases.”
In addition to that, Dr. Najwa Bourawi, the Chairperson of the Board of PACJA triangulated a glimpse of the extent of climate-related health impacts, noting that impacts range from heart and lung disease, cancer, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
“Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, and heat stress,” said Dr. Bourawi.
Prof Chiotha Sosten, the Regional Programme Director for LEAD SEA, Malawi said that while providing the basis for localised and community-led actions on climate change, indicators must provide for cross-sectoral response to climate change including the water sector, energy, and transport among other sectors.
Governments were also urged to design some policies to intentionally promote greater synergy on the national level as a must have contribution on gender and health-related targets.