Burundi Tops Scorecard for Integrating Health into Climate Action Plan

Landlocked equatorial Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world – yet it scored the highest out of 58 countries for its plans to integrate health measures into its climate mitigation plan, getting an almost perfect score of 17 out of 18.

Low- and middle-income countries were far more likely to include health goals in their climate commitments than more wealthy, industrialised nations that are responsible for the majority of global greenhouse gas emissions.

This is according to an analysis published on Tuesday by the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA), a coalition of over 150 health and development organisations working to tackle climate change.

The alliance analysed the climate plans of 58 countries – which are called nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in terms of the Paris Agreement on climate change. All countries that are party to this agreement have to develop NDCs to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts, submit these plans to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and update them every five years.

The countries included in the alliance’s NDC Healthy Scorecard were those that had submitted their plans between 1 October 2021 and 23 September 2022. 

Greater ambition

“Overall, the Healthy NDC Scorecard demonstrates a trend of low- and middle-income countries showing greater ambition for protecting their citizens’ health from the worst impacts of climate change, while identifying additional wins through health co-benefits of climate action,” said Jess Beagley, Policy Lead at the Global Climate and Health Alliance. 

Each NDC was assigned a health score, with a total maximum of 18 points available across six categories – health impacts of climate change, actions in the health sector itself, recognition of health co-benefits of climate action in other sectors, economic and financial considerations, and monitoring and implementation. 

For example, countries get points for how well different parts of government are integrated to address climate change, how the health sector is being adapted to address climate threats, whether there is a budget, if the health impacts of climate change are quantified in terms of their cost, and whether there are particular targets that are set out, that relate to health, that governments can e held accountable to.

Where available, data from Climate Action Tracker has been included to evaluate the country’s level of ambition with regard to its emissions reduction target, its key commitment to mitigating climate change and limiting global warming.

“The NDC of Burundi is really exemplary,” said Beagley.  “It really does do almost the maximum in terms of integrating health into the NDC.”

Burundi’s plan includes the need to address a likely increase in the spread of vector-borne disease and flooding. A spinoff of its “vulnerability analysis” includes plans to power 455 health centres with solar energy.

Health considerations are part of its plans related to agriculture, energy, transport and water. It has a budget, indicators and timelines. 

Some wealthy nations score zero

Some wealthy nations, including Australia, Japan and New Zealand scored zero, reflecting the lack of any reference to health and climate linkages in their NDC. 

Meanwhile, the NDC emissions targets of some G20 nations, including Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, as well as of COP28 host the United Arab Emirates and COP27 host Egypt, received the worst rating available on the scale used by Climate Action Tracker. 

“Their climate mitigation targets contained in their NDCs align with over 4°C of warming, far beyond the 1.5C target agreed under the Paris Agreement, and putting the world on track for catastrophic and irreversible climate change impacts,” according to the alliance.

Jeni Miller, executive director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance.

“Although COP28 is being marketed as the ‘Health COP’, the Healthy NDC Scorecard scores make it clear that virtually none of the countries most culpable for climate warming appear to be clearly focussed on protecting the health of their citizens, or people around the world, when making climate commitments”, said Dr Jeni Miller, executive director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance. 

“This is despite promising to protect people’s ‘right to health’ when adopting the 2015 Paris Agreement, as well as endorsing the ‘right to a healthy environment’ at COP27”.

Image Credits: UNHCR.

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