4 January 2023

The climate emergency is a health emergency


By Cervest

The climate emergency is a health emergency

Cervest Founder and CEO, Iggy Bassi, joins Lexica Net Zero Director, Lucy Symons-Jones to share why the climate emergency is a health emergency in this joint byline.

“The climate crisis is a health crisis” - those were the words of the World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a media briefing on 2 November, during the first week of COP27.

“Climate change is making millions of people sick or more vulnerable to disease all over the world and the increasing destructiveness of extreme weather events disproportionately affects poor and marginalized communities,” Dr. Ghebreyesus continued. “It is crucial that leaders and decision-makers come together at COP27 to put health at the heart of the negotiations.” The WHO called for the COP27 conference to conclude with progress on the four key goals: mitigation, adaptation, financing and collaboration to tackle the climate crisis.

In the UK, extreme weather has increased pressure on health services still grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic. The healthcare sector is at high risk of climate-driven natural hazards which can have serious impacts from flooded boiler rooms and leaky roofs, threats to the delivery of clinical kit and immediate effects on staff wellbeing and numbers of patients. Recent extreme weather events like the record-breaking temperatures in July, which raised a level 4 heat-health alert in the UK, highlight the significant stress levels that the sector will increasingly have to cope with.

As it stands, Britain’s critical infrastructure for providing healthcare is not built to withstand forecasted changes in climate. We can expect the increasing frequency and severity of risks like heatwaves and drought to lead to healthcare assets and infrastructure having to be retrofitted or even relocated.

But the risks posed by climate change go beyond infrastructure. Health services will have to grapple with a rise in mortality rates and poorer patient recovery from illness, as well as medical staff struggling to work in overheated conditions, or an increase in staff absenteeism due to illness, school closures or caring for relatives during extreme weather events. The IPCC’s sixth assessment report showed that climate change will significantly increase ill health and premature deaths from the near- to long-term future.

The good news is that by taking steps to plan, institutions can make a serious difference to quality of life in a changing climate and how we experience living and working in buildings. The NHS has said that its services have a responsibility to be prepared by embedding adaptation into daily practice by 2023, when the NHS Green Plan is due to be updated. By analysis and planning grounded in the forecasts, there are replete ‘hacks’, technological fixes and future proofing changes we can put to work that will mean climate risk is integrated into the design and delivery of healthcare.

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Why systems-thinking is crucial

We believe that beyond just looking at assets in isolation, the healthcare sector should take a collective approach to adaptation and study the local and regional impacts of climate-related risks.

That is why in October, Lexica partnered with Cervest to help British healthcare providers better understand the climate-related risk affecting their assets and operations.

Lexica’s team of consultants will use Cervest’s climate intelligence (CI) product, EarthScan™, to more accurately assess climate risk exposure down to individual asset-level. EarthScan, the first offering on Cervest’s climate intelligence platform, provides a comprehensive view of asset-level climate risk for the upcoming 80 years, across multiple climate emissions scenarios, and climate hazards, including heat stress, flooding, drought, precipitation and extreme wind. Lexica will use these insights to develop strategic, operational and financial plans for its healthcare clients.

Cervest’s CI will help solidify the healthcare industry’s resilience – ultimately saving lives and livelihoods.

At COP27, it was reassuring to see the relationship between global public health and the environment being highlighted by WHO at the conference’s Health Pavilion. Over the two weeks, more than 40 side-events have taken place, promoting the health argument for climate actions, the resilience of health systems, strengthening and reinforcing international cooperation and supporting the most vulnerable countries.

But now the talks are over, the real work begins to help healthcare adapt to a changing climate.

Download our free ebook to discover how climate intelligence can transform your ESG strategy and help your organization build climate resilience.

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