What Works Climate Solutions Summit: Workshop on the health co-benefits and climate mitigation

5 May 2024

The Pathfinder Initiative, in collaboration with the What Works Climate Solutions Summit, hosted a workshop on 30 April and 1 May, focusing on the health co-benefits of climate mitigation.

Photograph of a panel discussion at the What Works Climate Solutions Summit workshop
Panel discussion at the WWCS workshop

The workshop brought together around 100 researchers, policymakers and practitioners in person and online to:

  • identify and deliver context-specific and policy relevant evidence on the benefits (and potential trade-offs) of mitigation actions for climate and health;
  • improve and inform evidence synthesis around climate solutions with health co-benefits for upcoming climate change assessments, particularly the IPCC's 7th Assessment Report and IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Cities, as well as other forms of scientific policy advice; and
  • strengthen capacity to develop, implement and evaluate climate mitigation actions that promote health and increase equity and resilience, using principles of co-design.

Focusing on key themes of the upcoming summit, speakers and participants explored what works in climate policy, under what conditions and why. Experts from a range of disciplines and backgrounds discussed challenges and opportunities in research and policy, and how to build a robust evidence base on climate mitigation and health to inform decision making at all levels. 

There was consensus that the evidence base needs to be strengthened and harmonised, which will involve better sharing of data and tools, use of standard metrics and guidelines, and breaking down of disciplinary siloes.

While the importance of context was underscored, speakers also highlighted the need for transferability of evidence to advance action globally, including in places where there is less data available. Panellists also noted the need to think beyond geographical context and take into consideration multiple factors such as gender or rate of growth of urban areas. 

Rosemary Green presenting findings from the Pathfinder Initiative on pathways to net zero and improved health
Rosie Green presenting findings from the Lancet Pathfinder Commission report

Researchers from LSHTM presented evidence from the Pathfinder Initiative on the main pathways to health from climate mitigation and highlighted current challenges in research, such as the variety of methods and metrics used to measure climate and health effects, and limited evaluation of implemented actions. Addressing gaps in the data, for example on the health effects of nature-based solutions, was highlighted as a priority for future research.

Experts emphasised opportunities for research and action, including integrating adaptation and mitigation actions to achieve climate goals and protect health, leveraging machine learning and AI, the role of Indigenous knowledge in informing conceptual models, and involving communities in the design and implementation of solutions.

Participants discussing results from a Miro brainstorm
Participants discussing results of a Miro brainstorm

The second day of the workshop focused primarily on the translation of evidence to policy and implementation, and how to communicate evidence to maximise impact. In the context of growing political recognition of the health co-benefits of climate action, with 150 countries now endorsing the COP28 climate and health declaration and a third of countries referencing health co-benefits in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the opportunity and necessity to foreground health in climate policies has never been greater.

Following on from the first day of discussions, speakers emphasised the need for better monitoring and evaluation of actions to understand real-world impact, capitalise on health co-benefits and minimise trade-offs. There was also agreement that generating policy-relevant research requires embedding co-production into the research process and fostering strong researcher-policymaker relationships.

Speakers highlighted the need for evidence to be communicated in a timely, policy-relevant and context-specific way to decision makers, including key findings and recommendations, gaps in data and strength of evidence, and the investment case for health-centred action.

Reflecting on discussions at the workshop, Pathfinder Initiative Co-chair Andy Haines said, “If we want to get to a net-zero economy by 2050, we need radical reforms in all sectors, across high, middle and low income countries, as well as factoring in equity. What we are talking about is systemic change, and that involves a multiplicity of actions occurring at different scales both temporally and spatially.”

Results from the workshop will be used to inform evidence reviews, guidelines, checklists and data harmonisation methods under development as part of the second phase of the Pathfinder Initiative. The workshop outputs will also inform the programme of work at the What Works Climate Solutions Summit in June 2024, and will be presented at a session on “Aligning evidence on climate change mitigation and health insights from the Pathfinder Initiative and partners” at the main summit.

The workshop followed the conclusion of the first phase of Pathfinder research, which focused primarily on evidence gathering and synthesis to illuminate the pathways most likely to lead to major co-benefits for health from climate mitigation actions. Findings are published in the Lancet Pathfinder Commission report and on the Climate & Health Evidence Bank.

Further outputs from the workshop will be shared on this page in due course.