Dubai/Geneva – On the first-ever dedicated health day at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, global health agency Unitaid launched a bold new climate and health strategy to support the development of health products that are more fit-for-purpose in a changing climate.
With a focus on mitigation and adaptation, the strategy sets a path toward developing “climate-smart” health products that are not harmful to the environment, are more resilient, responsive to climate change and are locally adapted. As an organization focused on product introduction and market shaping, Unitaid already works with a wide range of partners who develop, manufacture, procure and use these products and is well positioned to advance these solutions.
The rollout of the new climate and health strategy comes on the heels of a recent Unitaid report, “From milligrams to megatons: a climate and nature assessment of 10 key health products” demonstrating how 10 lifesaving health products used every day around the world – from HIV medications and self-tests to mosquito nets that protect families from malaria – emit 3.5 megatons of carbon each year and impact nature through manufacturing, transport and disposal. The analysis also looked at what it would take to reduce these emissions and identified 20 main technical solutions – such as process improvements, product redesign, circular manufacturing – that could reduce emissions by 70%, including 40% that could be implemented without increasing the cost of production.
The report also spotlighted how vulnerable several lifesaving health products are to a changing climate. For example, the active ingredient in medicines for malaria treatment, artemisinin, is cultivated from a plant that is sensitive to climate conditions and contains less active ingredient when exposed to heat and dry weather. Disruptions to supply chains after extreme weather events are also expected to affect last-mile delivery of sensitive health products to vulnerable communities.
“The health sector contributes 4.6% of global greenhouse gas emissions, including 71% that are primarily derived from the health care supply chain,” said Unitaid Director of Results and Climate Vincent Bretin. “While at the same time, these products are clearly vulnerable to the unknown elements of a changing climate. While this is an enormous threat, it is also an opportunity to innovate and adapt products and interventions to make them relevant for the future.”
The new climate and health strategy outlines concrete steps Unitaid and its partners can take to accelerate the introduction and adoption of more climate-smart health products through, among other steps:
- Supporting the development of new products that have improved heat stability, reduced plastic content, or are made with “green chemistry,” a chemical product design approach that reduces or eliminates the use of hazardous byproducts.
- Shaping markets to create sustainable and viable conditions for climate-smart products through market-based incentives for suppliers, using blended finance with partners that have complimentary investments, or supporting enhanced regional manufacturing of critical products.
- Supporting the introduction, adoption, demand and scale-up of climate-smart products through using local climate data to inform the deployment of tailored health products, or raising demand within communities for products more attuned to their needs.
Capitalizing on Unitaid’s strong footprint in regulatory systems, intellectual property, procurement, and regional manufacturing, the strategy also focuses on supporting a sustainable evolution towards more climate-smart health product supply chains as a global standard through promoting appropriate regulations, business models, and procurement practices. Through the new strategy, Unitaid also plans to do its part by reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the secretariat and its portfolio of investments in line with the Paris Agreement.
“At Unitaid we always have our sights set on the future. I am proud of our organization, which recently adopted a climate and health strategy that directs Unitaid towards “climate-smart” healthcare, that is, healthcare that is greener, more sustainable and more responsive to climate change through a concrete set of technical priorities, investments and partnerships,” said Unitaid board chair Marisol Touraine. “The evidence is clear; climate change will affect the key health products we rely upon today. The world needs climate-smart health products that enable sustainable and equitable access to healthcare for all.”
Unitaid’s climate strategy was launched at an event on community engagement and climate-smart health products at the COP28 Health Day, hosted by Unitaid and PREZODE.
For more information and media requests:
Head of Communications and Spokesperson
M: +33 6 22 59 73 54
+41 79 445 17 45View All News