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Climate crisis is a health and human rights crisis

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Publication date 1.12.2023 14.11

The International Health Organization WHO has stated that climate change is the single biggest threat facing humanity in the 21st century. According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC, approximately 3.6 billion people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Globally, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050.

Climate change has many negative effects on health and wellbeing. As climate conditions change, we are witnessing extreme weather and climate events, such as storms, extreme heat, floods, droughts and forest fires, occurring with increasing frequency and intensity. Climate change makes it even more difficult to access, for example, clean air, safe drinking water, adequate nutrition and safe shelter. It also increases the threat of pandemics and communicable diseases.

The impacts of climate change on human health are also evident in Finland. More frequent heatwaves affect the health and wellbeing of older people and people with chronic diseases in particular, but they can also cause health problems to pregnant and breastfeeding women. Finland was one of the first countries to develop a National Climate Change Adaptation Plan for the healthcare and social welfare sector at the beginning of the millennium. The Climate Change Adaptation Plan for 2021–2031 was adopted in 2021. The Plan recognises, among other things, the importance of a regional perspective in reducing inequality caused by climate change. 

According to the Healthy Finland Survey published in October 2023, as many as two out of five women and one out of four men say they are very or extremely concerned about climate change. Women aged 20–39 are most concerned about climate change. These legitimate concerns and the impacts of climate change also on young people’s mental health must be addressed through effective climate measures. We must do more and strengthen our younger generations’ faith in the future.

Health impacts of climate change are beginning to unfold globally

This year, the COP28 UN Climate Change Conference, which is taking place in Dubai, will host the first-ever Health Day and climate-health ministerial. The purpose of the thematic day is to highlight how climate change affects people’s health and wellbeing as well as the resilience of health systems and societies. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will participate in the Health Day as part of Finland’s COP28 delegation. At the Conference, Finland will emphasise the importance of a human rights-based and inclusive approach in all climate work. Particularly the position of women and girls, indigenous peoples and vulnerable groups, such as persons with disabilities, and their opportunities to exert influence must be taken into account in climate work. 

A Declaration on Climate and Health will be adopted in connection with the Conference. The aim of this Declaration is to demonstrate collective high-level political commitment to responding to the threats that climate change poses to health and health systems. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has signed this commitment.

Sanni Grahn-Laasonen
Minister of Social Security