Developing health policy for climate change


Supporting the implementation of prevention, mitigation and adaptation strategies ameliorating the health impacts of climate change, taking into account national impact assessments (e.g. by strengthening surveillance activities), with appropriate public education and with special reference to vulnerable groups.

Including national health impact assessments to identify the vulnerability of populations and subgroups and the appropriate health impacts to be monitored (and the enhancement of national capacity to undertake such monitoring and assessment as necessary).


Reducing greenhouse gases through the transport, energy and industry sectors would have immediate health benefits. This is not just taking measures to avoid the health risks that climate change will bring, such as diseases or death from extreme weather events, and vector, food or water borne diseases that arise from altered climates. It is now clear that taking strong and pre-emptive measures that directly reduce greenhouse gases will also result in other immediate and important health benefits for us all, for example through cleaner air. Taking measures now to limit the damage from climate change will bring immediate benefits to health. This is a win-win strategy.

Human-induced changes in the global climate system and in stratospheric ozone pose a range of health risks. Irrespective of any actions that might soon be taken to reduce or halt these environmental changes, human populations will be exposed to some degree of climate change and increased ultraviolet irradiation over the coming decades. There is therefore a need to consider how these global change processes will affect human health, how to improve research and monitoring, how to minimize adverse health impacts, and how to achieve coordination, sharing of information, and participation in wider international efforts in this area.

Many of the impacts of climate change on health can be avoided through the maintenance of strong public health programmes to monitor, quarantine, and treat the spread of infectious diseases and respond to other health emergencies as they occur. Although air-conditioning and public health programmes may impose additional costs on the public and private sectors, they are preferable to the impacts on human health that would otherwise occur.

Air pollutants from fossil fuels currently damage health: when air pollution is eased, prompt health benefits follow. Globally, it has been estimated that about 8 million deaths between the year 2000 and 2020 could be avoided by strategic climate policies, as opposed to a "business-as-usual" scenario.


A Swiss study on climate change scenarios demonstrated that the most efficient greenhouse gas reduction programmes are also clean air programmes. The climate change strategies that will benefit health positively are those in which countries directly target fossil fuel emissions. The largest health benefits will stem from integrated policies, taking into account technology, urban planning, speed, safety, quality of life, self-sustained mobility and public transport. A recent three-country European study found that 6% of deaths are caused by air pollution, thus killing many more people than traffic accidents.

Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 2: Zero HungerGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 6: Clean Water and SanitationGOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 13: Climate ActionGOAL 14: Life Below WaterGOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong InstitutionsGOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal