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Climate crisis is a health crisis: WHO's Vanessa Kerry

Climate crisis is a health crisis: WHO's Vanessa Kerry

Climate crisis is a health crisis: WHO's Vanessa Kerry

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(AFP) - Vanessa Kerry, who in June became the first-ever Special Envoy for Climate Change and Health of the World Health Organization, will be front and centre at the upcoming COP28 climate conference in Dubai. So will her father, John Kerry, as Special Climate Envoy of the Biden administration. Vanessa Kerry discussed the immediate and future climate challenges facing the world in an interview with FRANCE 24's Marc Perelman.

Asked about her appointment as Special Envoy for Climate Change and Health, Vanessa Kerry explained that "the climate crisis is a health crisis" with "seven million people a year dying from air pollution".

"There's a very real opportunity for us to have a health-centered approach to climate change" and to protect "how we live, how we breathe, how we walk and what we can do in our lives", Kerry explained.

In short, her appointment is "truly an opportunity to continue to flag the urgency of what we face".

'Investments in health are actually savings'

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently called for "dramatic climate action", warning that "we're out of road" on global warming and that more funds are necessary.

"Our ability to invest in our health and well-being does not need to be competitive with where other dollars are needed in climate change," Kerry said. "The reality is that investments in health are actually savings. For every dollar that we invest in strengthening health systems (...) you actually see two to four dollars of return on investment and benefits that can happen," she added. "If we invested in the prevention side of things, we will save money rather than reacting."

Asked about the importance of these investments getting through to governments in rich countries and international institutions, Kerry responded that "there's a lot of focus out there (...) to make sure that world leaders understand that the climate crisis as a health crisis can be an important way to respond to this moment".

Her father, John Kerry, will be in Dubai as Special Climate Envoy of the Biden administration. He was also in Paris for the COP21 climate conference in 2015 as US Secretary of State.

According to Vanessa Kerry, what needs to happen after COP28 is "to stop suffering from a pandemic of poor and expedient choices.

Leadership around this entire globe (...) has got to step up to this moment. We have got to have an immediate and just transition from fossil fuels where every decision we make is no longer increasing the greenhouse gas emissions but (...) is going to start to reverse that decision".