Transcript of the message of Mike Ryan
Excellencies, distinguished guests, dear colleagues and friends,
It is an honour to be with you today for the Be-cause health conference on Climate Change. I would like to thank our partners at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp and at the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their support of this event.
Climate change and its impact on health is an urgent topic, and so is the action we take. Health emergencies continue to put our communities at risk, including those health emergencies caused and driven by climate change.
Climate change is one of the most significant factors that compound the risk of health emergencies in all countries. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the delicate links between our health, our environment and our climate. We know that climate emergencies can push health systems to break, they can inhibit the ability of countries to respond to any emergency effectively.
The science is clear, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has noted that human influence has heated up the atmosphere, oceans and land. Human activities are stressing the environment and creating the conditions for health emergencies to flourish. We are pushing nature to its limit, and we are already seeing the impact of our actions.
Lives are being lost and people are being forced to migrate from their homes. In the last 20 months alone, more than 658 million people have been exposed to extreme temperatures. Disasters related to climate have killed more than 17,200 people and affected the lives of at least 139 million people.
Preparedness is key. Climate emergencies such as extreme weather events, wildfires and outbreaks of climate sensitive infectious diseases may trigger emergency mechanisms, and having preparedness in place on all levels is crucial for this. This is particularly true at community level. It is particularly true in settings with limited resources and where the impact of climate change is felt disproportionally by the most disadvantaged members of our society.
If we want to move forward, we need solidarity. We must focus our work on communities. We must listen to people and make them part of the solution, so that our investments meet the needs of those most at risk, in particular women, young people and indigenous people. We are taking huge risks for our future and our actions at this time are critical. The time is now to turn global commitments into effective global action. To design a sustainable and green recovery for all, and to ask ourselves; what legacy we are leaving behind for our children.