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COP26: Key Outcomes and the Path Forward for Rural Communities

“The future of health must be built on health systems that are resilient to the impacts of epidemics, pandemics and other emergencies, but also to the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather events and the increasing burden of various diseases related to air pollution and our warming planet,”(1) – Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization

 

In the past 6 months, British Columbia has experienced a heat dome, wildfires, and most recently an atmospheric river that brought widespread flooding and landslides. These environmental changes have caused a loss of life, catastrophic destruction, mass community evacuations, and severe economic repercussions. In 2020, severe weather events cost Canadian insurance companies an estimated $2.4 billion.(2) The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) recognized the importance of building resilience to the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather events and disruption to agricultural systems.

 

In the first global climate meeting since the Paris Agreement, COP26 was timely given the increasing effects of climate change and ecosystem disruption already occurring at our current 1.1°C global warming rate. The goals of COP26 were lofty, some of which included: securing global net-zero emissions by 2050 by accelerating the phase-out of coal; curtailing deforestation; planning to develop and implement carbon markets; and collaborating towards a plan for climate finance.(3) In the lead-up to the event, 150 countries submitted new or updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs) as pledges to take action against climate change. In July 2021, Canada submitted its long-anticipated updated NDC as the nation seeks to meet the targets outlined in the Paris Agreement. The new commitments include a 40-45% target reduction of greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030, a 10-15% greater reduction from the previous target.(4) While this is an important indication of increased commitment, the Canadian government has been chastised for failing to meet every climate target previously set, being the only G7 country to actually see an increase in overall emissions since the Paris Agreement was signed.(5) In light of these upsetting statistics, the COP26 summit posed a significant opportunity to get the country back on track with its climate goals and shared responsibility for global warming impacts.

 

Against the backdrop of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report outlining the current trajectory of the world to likely hit the 1.5°C mark by the early 2030s, the COP26 decision-makers set out to pledge more substantial collaborative efforts. Several notable outcomes from COP26 are as follows (6,7):

  1. Maintain the goal of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5°C
    1. Call for countries to revisit and strengthen their 2030 targets by the end of 2022 in alignment with the Paris Agreement global temperature goals
    2. Consider actions to reduce emissions through curbing coal use and transitioning out of fossil fuels
  2. Climate finance
    1. Developed countries failed to meet the 2009 goal of mobilizing $100 billion to support climate efforts for developing countries by 2020 – but they are still on the hook; progress must be reported
    2. Doubling funding for adaptation by 2025, an increase amounting to $40 billion
    3. Compensation for loss and damage due to climate change
  3. Emissions reporting and transparency
    1. Reduced timeline and standardization of emissions reporting to make it easier to make sense of the data
  4. Carbon trading
    1. Ability to buy carbon credits from countries that have cut down more than their share of pollutants in order to support countries where it is difficult and expensive to cut greenhouse emissions
  5. COP26 Health Program
    1. 50 countries have signed on to build climate-resilient health systems and increase the voices of health professionals and advocates

So, what do these newly refined international pledges mean for rural communities? Nearly half the global population (3.2 billion) live in rural regions and are indirectly or directly financially dependent on agriculture. Rural adaptability to climate change will be essential to ensuring global food systems remain intact and productive. Rural communities require support to mitigate the effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and ecosystem disruptions that reduce earnings or increase conflict over natural resources.

 

In addition to the pressing resource constraints, the increased pressure on rural physicians and health care professionals to deliver adequate and timely care to patients will not only be affected by active climate disasters but also by the changing nature of climate-related medical conditions. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths annually from malnutrition, malaria, heat stress, and diarrhea.(8) The areas most affected will be those with already weak health systems, including many rural areas.

 

So, what can be done? Further research into building resilient health systems with greater capacity to absorb climate shocks, community-led engagement in establishing and strengthening systems of adaptation based on local needs, and leadership buy-in to implement green innovation are all important components. COP26 represented an opportunity for our world leaders to come to a common consensus on our mutual path forward – rarely in history has there been a pressing issue that requires such a coordinated effort to curtail. In the wake of the summit, many are left waiting for clearer direction and more stringent action, with the voices of youth and women noticeably absent from many of the negotiation tables. As with all past climate decision-making, only time will tell if the headway made at COP26 will be adequate. With so much on the line, it’s more important than ever that we get this right.

 

References

 

  1. World Health Organization. Countries commit to develop climate-smart health care at COP26 UN climate conference [Internet]. WHO; 2021 November [cited 2021 Nov 18]. Available from: https://www.who.int/news/item/09-11-2021-countries-commit-to-develop-climate-smart-health-care-at-cop26-un-climate-conference.
  2. Cousins, Ben. Severe weather events cost Canadian insurers $2.4 billion in 2020 [Internet]. CTV News, 18 January 2021 [Cited 2021 Nov 18]. Available from: https://www.ctvnews.ca/business/severe-weather-events-cost-canadian-insurers-2-4-billion-in-2020-1.5270815.
  3. United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021. COP26 Goals [Internet]. UN, 2021 [Cited 2021 Nov 18]. Available from: https://ukcop26.org/cop26-goals/.
  4. Environment and Climate Change Canada. Canada’s 2021 nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement [Internet]. Government of Canada, 23, April 2021 [Cited 2021 Nov 18]. Available from: https://www4.unfccc.int/sites/ndcstaging/PublishedDocuments/Canada%20First/Canada%27s%20Enhanced%20NDC%20Submission1_FINAL%20EN.pdf.
  5. International Institute for Sustainable Development. Canada’s new nationally determined contribution shows progress but misses key opportunities [Internet]. IISD, 13 July, 2021 [Cited 2021 Nov 19]. Available from: https://www.iisd.org/articles/canada-updated-ndc-response.
  6. Hill, Alice, Babin et al. What COP26 did and didn’t accomplish [Internet]. Council on Foreign Relations 15 November, 2021 [Cited 2021 Nov 17]. Available from: https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/cop26-climate-outcomes-successes-failures-glasgow?gclid=CjwKCAiA7dKMBhBCEiwAO_crFElwhMfXyvYyJdWgQ12zQ0Zq9QYmXqpShHf9y3HNTUYZgnl3GFYnohoCAckQAvD_BwE.
  7. Evans, Simon, Gabbatiss et al. COP26: Key outcomes agreed at the UN climate talks in Glasgow [Internet]. Carbon Brief 15 November, 2021 [Cited 2021 Nov 17]. Available from: https://www.carbonbrief.org/cop26-key-outcomes-agreed-at-the-un-climate-talks-in-glasgow.
  8. World Health Organization. Climate change and health [Internet]. WHO, 30 October 2021 [Cited 2021 Nov 19]. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/climate-change-and-health.

 

Rural Community Resiliency to Climate Change

Learn more about our current pan-Canadian research project, as we build on lessons learned from the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic to strengthen rural community health and health services.

New RHSRNbc Newsletter – September edition

Read the latest edition of the RHSRNbc newsletter with updates from the network, FNHA’s featured Sacred and Strong report, research, funding, volunteer opportunities, and more.

New Chapter 4 on Healthy Rural Communities – Planning Resilient Communities and Adapting Rural Health Services in BC


Kim, D., Rogan, S., Karve, U., Tran, E., Cherian, A., & Grzybowski, S. (2020). Planning Resilient Communities and Adapting Rural Health Services in British Columbia : A response to climate change and ecosystem disruption [Conference Paper]. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0394154

Chapters 1- 4

New RHSRNbc Newsletter – July 2021 edition

 

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Mental Health, Climate Change Events and COVID-19 Invitation to Participate in Research

For details on the 2-part Community Survey, click here

For details on the Arts-based Community Survey, click here

For more information on the research project, contact:

Nelly D. Oelke
Associate Professor, School of Nursing, University of British Columbia, Okanagan
Telephone: 250-807-9880 or email: nelly.oelke@ubc.ca

Reagan Zinck
Project Coordinator, Psychology, University of British Columbia, Okanagan
Telephone: 250-807-9948 or email: reagszed@mail.ubc.ca

 

RHSRNbc Newsletter – May 2021 edition

 

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2021 – 22 RHSRNbc Symposia Grants

Application deadline: May 31, 2021

The RHSRNbc Symposia grant program provides support for rural researchers or
physicians to develop a symposium to explore issues focused on rural health
services for amounts up to $5000. This grant is intended to bring together
academics, rural practitioners, policymakers, citizens, and other stakeholders or
allies whose knowledge and practice can be shared to build upon and advance
the specific area of rural health research, practise or policy. We invite proposals
that aim to develop new knowledge or research questions through
multidisciplinary team engagements, or use the opportunity as a way to support
knowledge dissemination or knowledge translation activities related to their
research evidence.

The symposia grant may be applied to Online or in-person formats based on
public health restrictions applied at the time of application. All applicants should
indicate how their proposed symposia format brings together diverse
stakeholders to approach their topic from multiple perspectives and how it will
influence knowledge development, translation in practice or policy.

For more details on eligibility criteria, check the application form here.

2021-22 Collaborative Team Building Awards Open!

Deadline for the 2021-22 Team Building Awards: May 31, 2021

Purpose: To provide an opportunity for researchers to apply for up to $5000 in funding to support the development of a research team that contributes to the advancement of knowledge in the field of rural health and, any anticipated outcomes.

Goal: To promote and support the development of new multidisciplinary research teams focused on an issue of current importance to rural and remote health services and whose main goal is to apply for research funding.

Use of Funds: Funds can be used for activities, resources and expenses related to building research teams and identifying research themes and questions. We are open to new innovative strategies for virtual team building that aides in scholarly output. Eligible expenses include (but are not limited to): activities involved with recruiting team members; facilitation of group meetings (videoconference, teleconference, WebEx); virtual team building activities, workshops, conducting a preliminary literature review; resources required to apply for a grant etc.)

Conditions: The team building funding is allocated for a one-year period after which a final report must be submitted to RHSRNbc within 2 weeks. Final report templates will be distributed to award recipients; deliverables include a complete financial statement of team building activities, a progress report during the award period and proof that a funding application was submitted.

Application Form: Click Here

For more information and eligibility requirements, please contact the RHSRNbc Coordinator

Flex Program Funding Open!

 

 

The RHSRNbc fund travel bursaries to be awarded to year 1, 2 and 4 FLEX students who are working on projects that involve rural and remote health activities. Year 1, 2, and 4 bursaries are funded up to a maximum of $500 – $1000 each. These bursaries are intended to subsidize the costs of travel and accommodation related to your FLEX Project. Allowable expenses include transportation to rural communities and accommodation. Funds will be reimbursed after the submission of original receipts and the final report for RHSRNbc. However, due to the unintended consequences of COVID-19, these bursaries are intended to subsidize the costs associated with working on a rural health project remotely. 

Application deadline: April 30, 2021, for Y1 -2 students and Jan 7, 2022, for Y4 students. Please reach out to the research coordinator, Arlin Cherian or UBC Flex advisor for application details.