Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, health is receiving unprecedented public and political attention. Yet the fact that climate change also presents us with a health crisis deserves further recognition. From more deaths due to heat stress to endangering food security and access to clean water, climate change affects the environmental and social determinants of health in ways that are profound and far-reaching.
The year 2019 was marked by increased awareness of the climate crisis, driven in part by youth movements around the world. Yet while this urgency was reflected in the language of many politicians, it did not translate into concrete action. The UN Climate Summit in Madrid (COP25) exposed the huge disparity between growing societal demands for strong climate action and official outcomes driven by the diplomatic communities responsible for crafting global rules under the Paris Agreement. Considered “disappointing” by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, COP25 did not deliver.
The year 2020 has been marked by a new global crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, which has focused public and political attention on health like never before. And although they have not yet been foregrounded in climate discourse or action, the health impacts of climate change are also profound and far-reaching. These health risks – some of which are highlighted below – deserve to be elevated within the climate community.
Climate change endangers food security and access to clean drinking water. Increased temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns are likely to reduce the production of staple foods in many of the poorest regions of the world, increasing the incidence of malnutrition and undernutrition – which already contribute to 3.1 million premature deaths each year.
Extreme weather events destroy homes, medical facilities, and other key infrastructure, and their frequency and intensity is expected to increase under climate change.
Climate change will shift and potentially expand the geographic zones that are favourable for the transmission of vector-borne diseases, such as dengue, malaria and Zika.
On top of this, social, economic, and gender inequalities make it difficult for communities to deal with climate-related health impacts. Unsurprisingly, such impacts tend to affect the most vulnerable first. Without assistance to prepare and respond, regions with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries – will be the least able to cope.
The COVID-19 virus – which is thought to have crossed over from wild animals to humans, as is the case for 75% of all emerging infectious diseases – clearly illustrates the urgency of uniting the health and environmental policy agendas to bring the world on a path towards sustainability. The fundamental interdependency of human health and the health of the environment is encapsulated in the concept of planetary health, which emphasises that the health of the planet and the humans that inhabit it are inextricably linked. Planetary health is a scientific field and social movement that has been gaining force since the 2015 publication of the Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission report “Safeguarding human health in the Anthropocene epoch.” Among other things, this is evidenced by the formation of the Planetary Health Alliance, which has attracted a diverse community of academics and practitioners, including public health professionals, since its foundation in 2016.
The IASS Policy Brief highlights three recommendations:
1. Health professionals should engage strategically with climate planning processes.
Although it is clear that climate change will have far-reaching effects on human health, the issue of health has yet to play a larger role in climate politics or policies. One of the difficulties of integrating the climate and health agendas stems from the fact that their synergies are often overlooked by policymakers and practitioners. Given the urgency of climate action for human health specifically and planetary health more broadly, there is a need for communication tools and strategies that effectively demonstrate climate-health synergies, challenging the misperception that climate and health are two independent problems. Efforts to raise awareness of these synergies should focus on climate planning processes, particularly within the formal processes related to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, in which health has played only a minor role to date. Targeting climate planning processes at all levels is an important opportunity for the health community: not only to raise the profile of health within the climate policy arena, but also to enhance ambition and anchor support for climate action in the context of other societal priorities. Integration of health considerations within climate planning should also lead to improved health outcomes, particularly when it comes to preparing for the health impacts of a changing climate. Good health is something that is valued at both an individual and societal level; this has only been underscored by the recent Covid-19 pandemic. The current heightened attention on health is an opportunity to highlight the importance of climate action for health and ensure that this is reflected in the implementation of climate plans.
2. Use climate finance to unleash health co-benefits of climate action.
The task of decarbonising the world is neither easy nor inexpensive. Estimates of the investment required to achieve a low-carbon transition range from $1.6 trillion to $3.8 trillion annually between 2016 and 2050. Within the Global Climate Fund (GCF), developed countries have pledged to provide $100 billion annually to developing countries from 2020 on for climate change adaptation and mitigation. So far, little action has been taken on health within the world of climate finance, despite the acknowledgement of its importance. Countries can take the lead by including public health considerations in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement and associated plans and programmes. At the same time, funds should support this effort by providing structural guidelines and incentives for countries to incorporate health benefits, as well as mechanisms to monitor their achievement, into project proposals. Looking at the landscape of climate and development finance more broadly, one cannot ignore the COVID-19 pandemic, which will inevitably disrupt our economies and cause development setbacks. This disruption is both a risk and an opportunity for climate action. No economy has been left untouched, but the impact of this pandemic could and should drive more inclusive growth and sustainable development.
3. Scale up gender-just solutions as a lever to implement the Paris Agreement and the SDGs.
Climate change impacts the lives of women disproportionately. Furthermore, gender and other social inequalities lower the capacity of communities to cope with climate-related health challenges and dangerous environmental degradation. We recommend scaling up gender-just climate solutions as a way to synergistically advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Gender equality, a cross-cutting societal objective, is embodied in SDG5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Good health well-being and Climate action are likewise represented in SDGs 4 and 13, respectively. As the SDGs make clear, the path towards sustainability encompasses many goals, with action required across all sectors of economy and society. Given the enormity of this challenge, it is inefficient, and even counterproductive, to consider these goals in isolation; a synergistic approach is necessary. Here, the concept of “multi-solving” is appropriate: we need to design interventions that solve multiple problems at once. On a planet whose natural resources are increasingly under pressure from a human population of almost 8 billion, we don't have the luxury of addressing one crisis at a time. Beyond the normative goal of gender equality and the pragmatic case for “multi-solving” approaches, gender-just solutions can and should harness the potential of women to make economic contributions if decision-making processes were more equitable.
The urgency to integrate health into the climate agenda has never been greater. In a world struggling with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to examine the deep and complex links between human health and the health of our environment and social systems, including our economy. While building robust health systems and supporting health workers is essential, it is not enough to ensure collective, long-term human health. True resilience results from investing in the social and environmental determinants of health, among other things by limiting and preparing for climate change, reducing pollution, and minimising social inequality.
Before the pandemic, it was clear that implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals was at risk. Beyond the evident stress on global health systems, another fundamental area that came under threat was our food systems. COVID-19 provides us additional reasons to rethink how the world produces food and nourishes the most vulnerable populations, while simultaneously considering environmental impacts and the pressures from climate change. As is often the case, research on these challenges continues largely in separate silos of environment, agriculture, economics, and public health. In an open letter to world leaders, scientists called for more transdisciplinary research to develop increased resilience of our agricultural and food security systems, underscoring the need for integrative approaches such as planetary health. In an attempt to boost this theme, the UN will be holding the Food Systems Summit in 2021 to highlight the major opportunities for a well-organized and participatory global effort to address these challenges. If some leaders in the environmental arena did not see the direct connection between environment and human health prior to COVID-19, the pandemic has opened important avenues for a more integrative agenda.
In Eastern El Salvador, campesinos are cultivating a self-image to encourage rural youth to remain in rural areas. With help from Caritas, they have adjusted the cultivation methods to their soils and traditions - Marvin Antonio Garcia Otero,the deputy director of Caritas of the Diocese of San Miguel believes this is the best way to prevent rural exodus and criminality.
Africa's cotton production plays a key role in the fight against poverty. The "Cotton Made in Africa" initiative promotes sustainable cultivation - one element of which is the use of organic pesticides. Entomologist Ben Sekamatte and cotton company manager Boaz Ogola talked with Jan Rübel about soil and yields.
For years, place-based approaches to development have been considered important features in development cooperation, at the BMZ and in FAO. Both organisations are aiming at advancing these approaches: an interview with Adriano Campolina from the FAO on territorial and landscape perspectives.
Companies in Africa that need financing between $20,000 and $200,000 find relatively few investors, as this sector is too large for microcredit and too small for institutional investors. This creates a "gap in the middle" where companies have limited options. A project of the World Resource Institute provides a remedy with the Landaccelerator 2020.
The first Climate Adaptation Summit put climate adaptation at the center of politics for the first time. The virtual meeting united global players with one goal: building resilience is just as important as climate protection itself. Around 15,000 participants discussed direct proposals.
Environmental change is having a particularly strong impact on the African continent. Its landscapes see both negative and positive processes. What is science's view of this? A conversation with Cyrus Samimi about mobility for livelihoods, urban gardening and dealing with nature.
African inland fisheries are increasingly reliant on the capture of small fish species that are sundried and traded over long distances. They make an important contribution in alleviating “hidden hunger”: consumed whole, small fish are an important source of micronutrients. Only that, unfortunately, politicians haven’t yet realised this.
What are the consequences of using synthetic pesticides in agriculture? Where do they help, where do they harm? Lena Luig, expert for the development policy organization INKOTA, and science journalist Ludger Weß discuss this controversial topic of international scope.
A contribution by Jes Weigelt and Alexander Müller
What is required to make food systems provide sufficient, healthy food while not harming the planet? How should food security be maintained given the threat posed by climate change? Our authors look at some aspects of tomorrow’s food systems against the backdrop of the corona crisis.
Freshwater deficits are affecting more and more people throughout the world. In order to counter this, our global food system will have to change, our author maintains. A case for more research on alternative crops and smart water solutions.
A contribution by Kerstin Weber and Brit Reichelt-Zolho (WWF)
Biodiversity and sustainable agriculture ensure the nutrition of whole societies. But there is more: These two factors also provide better protection against the outbreak of dangerous pandemics. Hence, the question of preserving ecosystems is becoming a global survival issue.
A contribution by Dr. May Hokan and Dr. Arnulf Köhncke (WWF)
Due to the coronavirus crisis, the connection between human and animal health has gained new attention. Politicians and scientists are joining forces to propagate the solution: One Health. But what is behind the concept? And can it also guarantee food security for all people worldwide?
Double interview with Tony Rinaudo and Volker Schlöndorff
Tony Rinaudo uses conventional reforestation methods to plant millions and millions of trees – and Volker Schlöndorff is filming a cinema documentary about the Australian. The outcome so far: An educational film on behalf of the BMZ (Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development).
A contribution by Nadine Babatounde and Anne Floquet (MISEREOR)
To prevent malnutrition among young children and strengthen the role of women in their communities, Misereor, together with the local non-governmental organisation CEBEDES, is implementing a programme on integrated home gardens in Benin - a series of pictures.
The Cashew Council is the first international organisation for a raw material stemming from Africa. The industry promises to make progress in processing and refining cashew nuts - and answers to climate change
A contribution by Michael Windfuhr (German Institute for Human Rights)
Land rights are no longer governed by the law of the strongest. That is what the international community has agreed to. Governments and private companies have a duty to respect human rights and avoid corruption.
It began with clicks at a trade fair and ends with concrete reforestation: a campaign at the Green Week in Berlin is now enriching the forests of the Yen Bai Province in Vietnam. A chronicle of an education about climatic relevance to concrete action - and about the short distances on our planet.
A report by Alexander Müller and Jes Weigelt (TMG)
As the climate changes, the population of Africa is growing and fertile land and jobs are becoming scarcer. New ways are currently leading to urbanisation of agriculture and a new mid-sized sector in the countryside
Nutrition experts from all over the world are coming together in Rome. They are not only distilling 2000 ideas to improve food systems - they are also preparing for the big UN summit in New York in September. An interview.
Journalist Jan Rübel spoke with Joao Campari ahead of the UNFSS Pre-Summit. The Chair of Action Track 3 highlights key challenges in transforming existing food systems towards sustainable production and shares his expectations for the Summit.
In this article, the author describes what we know about interlinkages, what role agriculture has to play in the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity, and what the necessary changes in agricultural systems might look like, both on small and large-scale farms.
A contribution by Dr. Karin Gaesing and Prof. Dr. Frank Bliss (INEF)
Especially in densely populated areas, land pressure leads to overexploitation of available land and a lack of conservation measures. The West African country of Benin, with heavily depleted soils in many places, is no exception.
A Contribution by Emile Frison and Nick Jacobs (IPES-Food)
While having failed to solve the hunger problem, industrial agriculture appears to be causing additional ones both in environmental and health terms. Emile Frison and Nick Jacobs call for a transformation.
Fish is important for combating malnutrition and undernourishment. But it is not only notable for its nutritional value, but also secures the livelihoods and employment for 600 million people worldwide.
"One World no Hunger" (SEWOH) becomes one of the five core themes of the BMZ. Dirk Schattschneider, SEWOH Commissioner about previous approaches, future areas of action, and the political will to end hunger.
Every one degree Celsius rise in temperature increases the risk of conflict by two to ten percent. The climate crisis is a humanitarian crisis, as the photos by Christoph Püschner and Frank Schultze illustrate.
Healthy, productive soils are a prerequisite for global food security – one of the priorities of German development cooperation. State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth on Germany’s efforts to support sustainable land management and why the VGGT are more important than ever today.
How to maintain functioning food markets in global food supply chains in the face of vulnerability and disruption? Markets that support local and territorial food systems are part of the solution. Thomas Forster presents proposals for these markets to cope with future shocks.
Interview with Caroline Milow and Ramon Brentführer
Groundwater resources remain dormant in the soil of African regions. Where does it make sense to use them – and where does overexploitation of nature begin? Caroline Milow (GIZ) and Ramon Brentführer (BGR) talk about potentials in the future and lessons from the past.
How can the challenges related to water, rural development and climate resilient agriculture be addressed? What innovations need to be promoted? The Water and Energy for Food (WE4F) initiative presents strategies and innovations for sustainable, integrated water management in German and international cooperation.
Regarding deforestation free supply chains, there are challenges and opportunities for smallholder farmers as well as for international forest governance. Also, responsibilities for companies and potential incentives for manufacturers to use materials from fair trade and sustainable sources need to be explored. But what does “deforestation-free” actually mean?
The oceans are important for our food supply, but they are overfished. To halt this trend the global community is now taking action against illegal fishing. Journalist Jan Rübel spoke with Francesco Marí, a specialist for world food, agricultural trade and maritime policy at "Brot für die Welt," and others.
Insurance companies could provide protection during droughts in Africa. How exactly this could be done is what the industry is currently trying to figure out. First experiences are available. An interview with the Managing Director of the Munich Re Foundation, Thomas Loster
The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2020 shows that the world is not on track to meet the international goal of “zero hunger by 2030”. If we continue at our current speed, around 37 countries will not even have reached a low hunger level by 2030.
110 speakers from 120 countries met virtually at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) to discuss the challenges to global food supply. They asked the question: How can food systems support the health of people and the planet?
In August, Germany’s development ministry set up a division concentrating on One Health topics. Parliamentary State Secretary Maria Flachsbarth on knowledge gaps at the human-animal-environmental interface, the link between One Health and food security, and lessons learnt from previous pandemics.
From the lab to the masses: Maria Andrade bred varieties of biofortified sweet potatoes which are now widely used all over the continent. She sets her hope on the transformation of African agriculture.
If there is a lack of fertile soil and rain, hunger breaks out quickly. Maria Smentek from the World Food Programme (WFP) explains how farmers and pastoralists can counter climate change with hydroponic-systems.
The majority of producers in developing countries are women. Although they contribute significantly to the food security of their families, they remain chronically disadvantaged in male-dominated agriculture in terms of access to land, credit, technology and education.
Interview with Bernadette Arakwiye und Salima Mahamoudou (World Resources Institute)
Deforestation is leading to a shortage of ressources. What are the options for counteracting? A conversation with Bernadette Arakwiye and Salima Mahamoudou about renaturation and the possibilities of artificial intelligence.
A report by Bettina Rudloff and Annette Weber (SWP)
The Corona-Virus exacerbates existing crises through conflict, climate, hunger and locusts in East Africa and the Horn of Africa. What needs to be done in these regions? To face these challenges for many countries, all of these crises need to be captured in their regional context.
Genetically modified bacteria become edible proteins, cows graze on pasture, and no waste is produced in an industrial circular economy. Journalist Jan Grossarth sees a silver lining for the future of world nutrition
At the climate conference in Glasgow, activists from various groups protested again – Leonie Bremer from ‘Fridays for Future’ was there too. How can climate protection and development cooperation work hand in hand?
Indian farmers restore precious soil material combining traditional with innovative approaches. A case example how governance, agriculture and development cooperation can work together to combat climate change.
This year's United Nations World Drug Report highlights for the first time the nexus between illicit drugs and the environment. In view of climate change, it is time to feed the debate with facts and make drug policy greener
Martin Frick has been director of the WFP office in Berlin for a year – since then one hunger crisis has followed another. What are the diplomat's answers? A conversation about opportunities in agriculture, the interplay of multiple crises, the importance of resilience and tighter budgets.
Development cooperation needs to place good governance and a sustainable agri-food systems transformation at its center: After the first 100 days in office have passed, Dirk Meyer from the German Development Ministry (BMZ) spells out the goals, guidelines and priorities of the Ministry’s new lead.
A Contribution of the 'Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains' (INA)
Fair Trade organisations and the Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains (INA) have launched the #ichwillfair campaign during COP26 to highlight the link between global supply chains and climate change.
The United Nations plan a Food Systems Summit - and now the Corona-Virus is dictating the agenda. The Chief Economist of the UN World Food Programme takes stock of the current situation: a conversation with Jan Rübel about pandemics, about the chromosomes of development - and about the conflicts that inhibit them.
Countries across Africa coordinate their efforts in the fight against corona by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) of the African Union in Addis Abeba. Until now, the curve of new infections has been successfully flattened – why? Dr. Ahmed Ouma, Deputy Director, explains the work of CDC in an interview with Tilman Wörtz.
African countries still face huge gender gaps in terms of access to work and capital. What are the consequences of Corona for women in Africa? Jan Rübel interviewed Léa Rouanet on lockdowns and gender-based violence. The economist works at the Africa Gender Innovation Lab of the World Bank.
This is a benchmark for everybody: More rights for women are a very influencing solution in the struggle against extreme poverty and hunger worldwide, says Stephan Exo-Kreischer, Director of ONE Germany. The organisation specialises in political campaigning as a lever for sustainable change.
Lack of seasonal workers and virus explosion in slaughterhouses, rising vegetable prices, climate crisis – all this demonstrates: Our food system is highly productive and (at least for the rich inhabitants of planet earth) guarantees an unprecedented rich and steady food supply - but it is not resilient.
What happens when young people leave the rural areas? How can the region achieve what is referred to as the demographic bonus – and how can it reap the benefits of the demographic dividend? A look at demography shows the following: What is most important is promoting women’s rights and education.
After four years of Donald Trump in the White House, it is time to take stock: What policies did the Republican government pursue in African regions? And what will change in favor of Joe Biden after the election decision? Here is an evaluation.
While Africa is the least affected region by Covid-19 so far, the number of confirmed cases and deaths on the continent is quickly rising. Despite the challenges many African countries continue to face, the African response to the coronavirus pandemic displays innovation and ingenuity.
Even though COVID-19 poses a threat to the health of humanity, the reaction to the pandemic must not cause more suffering than the disease itself. This is particularly relevant for poor developing countries, where the impact of the corona crisis on food security is even more severe!
Corona makes it even more difficult to achieve a world without hunger by 2030. So that this perspective does not get out of sight, Germany must play a stronger role internationally - a summary of the Strategic Advisory Group of SEWOH.
In most African countries, the infection COVID-19 is likely to trigger a combined health and food crisis. This means: In order to cope with this unprecedented crisis, consistently aligning our policies to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is more important than ever, our author maintains.
A contritbution by Essa Chanie Mussa (University of Gondar)
Rural youth need viable livelihood opportunities to escape out of poverty and realize their aspirations. How could they be helped to fully unleash their potential? This is an aloud call that needs novel strategies among governments, policy makers, and international development partners and donors.
How can we reach more people with successful approaches to food security? In Berlin, an international conference organized by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationaler Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) addressed this issue.
Shortly before ending his position as Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPR) Dr. Shenggen Fan talks about the reforms and new modes of operation needed to achieve global food security in the coming decade.
A report by T. S. Jayne, A. Adelaja and R. Mkandawire
Thirty years ago, Africa was synonymous with war, famine and poverty. That narrative is clearly outdated. African living standards are rising remarkably fast. Our authors are convinced that improving education and entrepreneurship will ensure irreversible progress in the region even as it confronts COVID-19.
A quick and cost-effective method calculates living wages and incomes for many different countries. The GIZ together with Fairtrade International and Richard and Martha Anker have developed a tool that companies can use to easily analyse income and wage gaps.
Oxfam’s supermarket scorecard, which is in its third year, shows one thing in particular - it works! Supermarkets can change their business policies and focus more on the rights of those people around the world who plant and harvest food. However, this does not happen without pressure.
Stefan Liebing is chairman of the Africa Association of German Business. The manager calls for a better structure of African farms. Jan Rübel asked him about small farmers, the opportunities for German start-ups and a new fund.
Supporting groups of smallholding women substantially contributes to strengthen rural operations economically. The organisation and associated group activities can help to reduce extreme poverty and improve the food situation.
Besides the well known impacts of Covid19 lockdowns for the adult population, the associated school closures led to 90 percent of the world’s children with no access to schools. However, school meals are in often the only daily meal for children. Without access to this safety net, issues like hunger, poverty and malnutrition are exacerbated for hundreds of millions of children.
Africa has a huge opportunity to make agriculture its economic driver. However, the potential for this is far from being made exhaustive use of, one reason being that women face considerable difficulties in their economic activities. The organisation AWAN Afrika seeks to change this state of affairs.
Three female entrepreneurs from Mozambique, Sri Lanka and Uganda tell their stories about starting organic businesses from scratch, now selling Baobab Oil, Gotukola powder and Shea butter in international markets. And they explain why their business is almost 100 percent female.
When women have control over the resources of a household and manage the income, it usually leads to a more balanced and healthier diet for the family. But often the decision-making power lies with the men. How can this gender inequality be addressed? The GIZ global project Food Security and Resilience provides insights into project work on gender-transformative approaches finances by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
At the beginning of December 2018, AGRA's board of directors met in Berlin. The "Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa" panel discussed the next steps in their policy of modernizing agriculture. How to go on in the next ten years? One question - many answers from experts.
The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) was launched by the G20 countries in 2010 in response to the 2008-09 food price crisis to increase both public and private investment in agriculture. An overview of the programme's approach, results and impact.
Interview with Martina Fleckenstein (WWF), Michael Kühn (WHH) and Christel Weller-Molongua (GIZ)
After the summit means pre-summit: It was the first time that the United Nations held a summit on food systems. Martina Fleckenstein, Michael Kühn and Christel Weller-Molongua reviewed the situation in this joint interview.
The Corona pandemic is hitting economies around the world very hard - but developments in African countries are quite diverse. There are different speeds, resiliences and vulnerabilities. What are the reasons for this? Apl. Prof. Jann Lay of the GIGA Institute provides answers.
The lockdown due to COVID-19 hit the economy hard - including agriculture in particular with its supply chains and sales markets. What creative coping strategies have those affected found? The Seminar for Rural Development has begun a research study on th
In March 2022, the virtual conference ICTforAg summons leading actors in the agrartechnology and food sector from low- and middle-income countries to exchange ideas advancing resilience, nutrition and agriculture-led growth.
Based on a scientific study by TMG Think Tank, the authors highlight various challenges in the fight against the hunger crisis. The findings show that climate change, conflict and covid-19 are increasing food and energy prices.
Four interviews kick off the relaunch under the new name „Food4Transformation“, asking the same questions from different perspectives. "Women and young people need access to land. And they need financial support to cultivate this land." - says Kolyang Palebele, President of the Pan African Farmers Organisation (PAFO).