Speech by Steffi Lemke at the World Health Summit Session: "Sustainable Health for People and Planet"

Bundesministerin Steffi Lemke
Steffi Lemke, the German Minister for the Environment, emphasizes the interconnection between human health and environmental health, discussing the planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

– Check against delivery –

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to speak here at the World Health Summit as the German Environment Minister for the second time. It reflects the interdependence between human health and environmental health. There is growing awareness worldwide of this connection. The impacts of the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution are affecting both humans and the environment.

This is especially true when it comes to the climate crisis. Its impacts on health are already felt all over the world – with heatwaves, water scarcity and the spread of infectious diseases. This is why climate action always protects health, too. And this will also be clear at the UN Climate Change Conference. Health ministers will meet at the conference for the first time for a Health Day. Also in other areas, such as food and mobility, climate change mitigation and health promotion go hand in hand.

This is why my ministry supports integrated, holistic approaches like One Health and Planetary Health. The priorities should be the precautionary principle and prevention. This helps us avoid costs for medical treatments.

The COVID-19 pandemic starkly illustrated this. Which leads me to the second planetary crisis – global biodiversity loss. COVID-19 heightened our awareness of the importance of environmental health and biodiversity to prevent epidemics and pandemics.

To highlight this link, Germany launched the Nature for Health Trust Fund in collaboration with leading international organisations. The goal of this initiative is to prevent zoonoses at the source. It supports projects that stop the transmission of diseases from animals to humans – covering all activities that bring humans, livestock and wild animals into close contact. My ministry has provided start-up finance of 50 million euros, enabling partnerships in at least 15 zoonotic hotspots.

There are also close links between health protection and the third planetary crisis – pollution. These links were the focus of recent international negotiations. At the fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management in Bonn at the end of September, we adopted the Global Framework on Chemicals.

1.5 million lives are lost every year due to lead poisoning. Children’s brain development is impaired massively. The new global framework agreed in Bonn will strengthen cooperation between all stakeholders for improved chemical safety. We reached agreement on progressive targets and effective steps for the safe management of chemicals globally. This benefits both people and the environment. The production of chemicals is increasing rapidly. And if they are not managed properly, chemicals can also pose a threat to public health – like the lead poisoning I just mentioned

At the International Conference on Chemicals Management, agreement was reached between governments, industry, civil society and the scientific community in all sectors dealing with chemicals and waste. Representatives of health protection and occupational health, environmental protection, industry and trade, agriculture, energy and transport were involved. Germany will provide 20 million euros to kick start the implementation of chemicals management, especially in the Global South. This is the right approach to ensure benefits for both the environment and health.

I wish you a successful conference.

Thank you.

17.10.2023 | Speech Health

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