Seizing the window of opportunity to mitigate the impact of climate change on the health of people in China

Cai, W., Zhang, C., Zhang, S., Ai, S., Bai, Y., Bao, J., Chang, N., Chen, B., et al. (2023). Seizing the window of opportunity to mitigate the impact of climate change on the health of people in China. Chinese Science Bulletin 68 (15) 1899-1905. 10.1360/TB-2022-0709.

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The health threats posed by climate change in China are increasing rapidly. Each province faces different health risks. Without a timely and adequate response, climate change will impact lives and livelihoods at an accelerated rate and even prevent the achievement of the Healthy and Beautiful China initiatives. The 2021 China Report of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change is the first annual update of China’s Report of the Lancet Countdown. It comprehensively assesses the impact of climate change on the health of Chinese households and the measures China has taken. Invited by the Lancet committee, Tsinghua University led the writing of the report and cooperated with 25 relevant institutions in and outside of China. The report includes 25 indicators within five major areas (climate change impacts, exposures, and vulnerability; adaptation, planning, and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; economics and finance; and public and political engagement) and a policy brief. This 2021 China policy brief contains the most urgent and relevant indicators focusing on provincial data: The increasing health risks of climate change in China; mixed progress in responding to climate change. In 2020, the heatwave exposures per person in China increased by 4.51 d compared with the 1986–2005 average, resulting in an estimated 92% increase in heatwave-related deaths. The resulting economic cost of the estimated 14500 heatwave-related deaths in 2020 is US$176 million. Increased temperatures also caused a potential 31.5 billion h in lost work time in 2020, which is equivalent to 1.3% of the work hours of the total national workforce, with resulting economic losses estimated at 1.4% of China’s annual gross domestic product. For adaptation efforts, there has been steady progress in local adaptation planning and assessment in 2020, urban green space growth in 2020, and health emergency management in 2019. 12 of 30 provinces reported that they have completed, or were developing, provincial health adaptation plans. Urban green space, which is an important heat adaptation measure, has increased in 18 of 31 provinces in the past decade, and the capacity of China’s health emergency management increased in almost all provinces from 2018 to 2019. As a result of China’s persistent efforts to clean its energy structure and control air pollution, the premature deaths due to exposure to ambient particulate matter of 2.5 μm or less (PM2.5) and the resulting costs continue to decline. However, 98% of China’s cities still have annual average PM2.5 concentrations that are more than the WHO guideline standard of 10 μg/m³. It provides policymakers and the public with up-to-date information on China’s response to climate change and improvements in health outcomes and makes the following policy recommendations.

(1) Promote systematic thinking in the related departments and strengthen multi-departmental cooperation. Sectors related to climate and development in China should incorporate health perspectives into their policymaking and actions, demonstrating WHO’s and President Xi Jinping’s so-called health-in-all-policies principle.

(2) Include clear goals and timelines for climate-related health impact assessments and health adaptation plans at both the national and the regional levels in the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for 2035.

(3) Strengthen China’s climate mitigation actions and ensure that health is included in China’s pathway to carbon neutrality. By promoting investments in zero-carbon technologies and reducing fossil fuel subsidies, the current rebounding trend in carbon emissions will be reversed and lead to a healthy, low-carbon future.

(4) Increase awareness of the linkages between climate change and health at all levels. Health professionals, the academic community, and traditional and new media should raise the awareness of the public and policymakers on the important linkages between climate change and health.

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Energy, Climate, and Environment (ECE)
Energy, Climate, and Environment (ECE) > Pollution Management (PM)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2023 07:29
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2023 07:29

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