Experts debrief on COP28 climate and health takeaways

Climate change and health illustration

February 7, 2024 – Members of the Harvard community who attended COP28—the two-week international climate summit held in late 2023 in Dubai—gathered January 30 to discuss key takeaways, lessons learned, and next steps in the climate and health arena.

A delegation of more than a dozen Harvard University faculty, researchers, and students attended the summit, which drew a record-breaking 85,000 participants and featured the first-ever “Health Day.”

Kari Nadeau, chair of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health and interim director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Environment (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE), served as moderator of the post-COP28 event, a hybrid gathering that was sponsored by C-CHANGE and the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Speakers highlighted the fact that the final COP28 agreement included, for the first time, language that called for addressing the health impacts of climate change, which range from heat-related illnesses to food insecurity to the spread of infectious diseases. They expressed disappointment that the agreement did not commit to the phaseout of fossil fuels, since emissions from burning these fuels are the primary drivers of global warming.

Caleb Dresser, director of healthcare solutions at C-CHANGE, said that addressing health-related climate issues is “a long game,” and that experts at Harvard have an important role to play in keeping the issue front and center. “Let’s use our voice to make sure that health is in the climate agenda, and that climate is in the health agenda,” he said. Gaurab Basu, director of education and policy at C-CHANGE, concurred, noting, “It’s critical that we’re in this space helping make policy in global negotiations.”

Speakers at the event included several experts from the FXB Harvard Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, including Natalia Linos, executive director; Catharina Giudice, FXB climate change and human health fellow; and Tess Wiskel, FXB climate and human health fellow. Other Harvard Chan School participants included Elizabeth Willetts, visiting scholar and planetary health policy director in the Department of Environmental Health, and Francesca Dominici, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Biostatistics, Population, and Data Science. Vanessa Kerry, WHO Director-General Special Envoy for Climate Change and Health, also spoke.

Watch a recording of the post-COP28 event