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Cop 27:Climate change impacts medical and humanitarian crises

03 Nov 2022

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are continuously responding to health and humanitarian impacts linked to the changing climate and the degrading environment in multiple locations across the world.

The world’s most vulnerable people are the most affected - many of whom are the communities we serve.  

Many of the places we work today are in the countries most at risk of the effects of climate change and the least prepared to respond. 

The health consequences of the climate emergency are very clear -  this is proven by an abundance of high-quality, scientific evidence. It is also well-established that climate change exacerbates existing vulnerabilities and aggravates humanitarian situations.

Experts project that the health impacts of climate change will increase as the planet continues to heat up, which in turn will likely result in much higher humanitarian needs than we are responding to today. 

Many of the places we work today are in the countries most at risk of the effects of climate change and the least prepared to respond. 

Conscious of our clear responsibility to improve our environmental footprint, Médecins Sans Frontières is participating as an official observer at the United Nation’s Federation Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) between the 6th and 18th November in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, where world leaders gather to update climate action plans to reduce carbon emissions. MSF has committed to mitigating its contributions to the climate crisis by setting a movement-wide carbon reduction target in December 2021. We pledged to reduce our emissions by at least 50 percent compared to 2019 levels by 2030. 

As an official observer, MSF is attending the Cop 26 to bring a stronger humanitarian perspective to the discourse; to start mobilising and engaging key stakeholders to ensure climate action benefits vulnerable communities, and to lay the ground for future targeted advocacy.

Decisions made at COP have significant implications for the populations we serve, as such MSF attendance represents an opportunity to reach the wider public, decision-makers and others with the capacity to influence the process through media coverage generated by this annual event.

We are also attending to relay the consequences of climate change we are addressing through our humanitarian and medical actions as witnessed and experienced by the communities we serve. We know from experience that this will affect the most vulnerable people and communities (whom we already assist) – and deepen existing inequalities. A significant proportion of the disease burden we are responding to across our projects today is climate sensitive.

As health professionals responding to these consequences - and knowing that the situation is likely to get considerably worse - we should relay our concern and call for action that could help the most vulnerable communities.

The climate emergency is a defining issue of our time. COP is the most influential global gathering of key stakeholders on this topic, where health implications of the climate crisis are only recently gathering international attention. We would like to see the health and humanitarian perspective featured more prominently within the discourse at COP, to ensure the needs of the most affected people are not forgotten.

Other key humanitarian and health actors we engage with share our analysis and we want to contribute our voice to have a strong humanitarian narrative. In addition, MSF has signed the Climate and Environment Charter for Humanitarian Organizations which includes a call for using our influence to mobilise more ambitious climate action