Linking climate change and health: Summarizing stakeholders' interviews in Norway
FHI participates in the EU project, ENBEL and in this connection has interviewed five decision-makers at local and national level about how they work with adaptation to reduce the health effects of climate change. Findings from the interviews will be used in the design of policy measures for health and climate adaptation.
The ENBEL project aims to support climate and health policymaking in Europe and bring together leaders in climate change and health research through a network of international research projects funded under the Belmont Forums Collaborative Research Action. Through ENBEL, the EU wants to develop syntheses and produce targeted knowledge with stakeholders.
An important task in the ENBEL project is to identify the views of stakeholders and decision-makers to understand how best to integrate climate and health policy at local and national level. NIPH is one of 17 partners from Europe and Africa. This autumn, interviews were conducted with municipalities in 20 European cities and public sector organizations, at both national and European level. The findings from this research will be communicated to the European Commission in order to design better policy measures for health and climate adaptation.
Summary of the interviews in Norway
The findings from the interviews in Norway show that there is no clear connection between climate adaptation and health adaptation strategies in the surveyed Norwegian municipalities (Bergen, Oslo and Trondheim).
Safety and emergency preparedness are the most relevant elements in climate and health adaptation in Norway. There are good resources on both the climate and health side, although it is not enough to mobilize for combined climate and health adaptation recommendations set by governmental authorities.
Networking is active mostly at regional and national level. For the national contact point, networks on climate and health adaptation are the results of global health and EU projects. Implementation of the Green Deal and Covid-19 recovery plan is not in the spotlight due to the ongoing pandemic.
A more thorough review of the Norwegian interviews is described below.
Climate adaptation and health adaptation interest
Norwegian municipalities have a strong interest in climate and health. However, in Bergen and Trondheim, they work with climate adaptation and health adaptation separately in different organisational units. Focus on the health impact of climate adaptation is limited compared to efforts spent on building, protecting, and repairing the infrastructure delivering drinking water. The main reason is rather prevention of financial losses caused by extreme weather than health adaptation.
In Oslo City, Climate Adaptation is integrated into the work within public health and community medicine, such as a part of the Public Health Strategy. The Oslo’s Public Health Agency has a climate adaptation coordinator who participates in the municipality's climate adaptation network. This network is an arena for sharing information and strengthening cooperation on climate adaptation. All members of the network are responsible for obtaining information from their own agency to the network and sharing information about what is happening in the climate adaptation field in the municipality within their agency. In addition, the Oslo’s Public Health Agency participates in working groups and other input rounds / hearings concerning climate adaptation.
On the national level, the Norwegian Public Health Institute recently established a new division for climate and environment showing strong engagement in climate and health adaptation. The national representative also mentioned the Norwegian Directorate of Health's commitment to climate adaptation in health institutions (Sektorrapport om folkehelse 2021).
Safety and preparedness are important factors of climate and health adaptation
All interviewed participants including the national contact point mentioned climate and health adaptation’s connection to safety and preparedness. Especially in situations like heavy rain resulting in flooding, rock and landslides, and heat waves. They also mentioned impact of extreme temperature changes in wintertime when temperatures can change rapidly from well below zero degree Celsius to well above. They also stressed that elderly and chronically ill are mostly affected by climate change.
Oslo City has developed a Climate Vulnerability Analysis where health is addressed in the chapter: “Health and safety” (pages 138-150). In this chapter, health is mentioned under the emergency preparedness work, because both health and emergency preparedness in the municipalities are part of a comprehensive system from the national to the local level. In the health part of the chapter, both acute and insidious health challenges resulted by climate change are highlighted. Although the main priority in the health sector is good health preparedness, there is a need to continue to prevent and alleviate health problems resulting from climate change. Continuous work of the health institutions in the event of power cuts or reduced water quality / water supply due to accidents, vector-borne diseases, infections transmitted via food and drink, reduced quality of life and new diseases due to migration can be partially prevented in the sector, by strengthening the knowledge base and increasing robustness of systems (page 150).
Safety and preparedness are central especially when accidents happen. The most significant land slide accident in Norway in modern times happened on 30 December 2020. An area of about 300 by 700 meters slid out leading to the destruction of houses and the evacuation of 1000 people and several deaths.
Limited capacity for implementation of current policies
Interviewed participants were positive to current national policy on climate and health adaptation although the municipalities indicated their limited capacity for its implementation. This is because most of the policies and actions come in the form of recommendations. Municipalities would prefer that governmental institutes issue regulations resulting also in sufficient funding of climate and health adaptation. There is also a need for more knowledge about how climate change affects the health in municipalities and about actions to be taken. The national contact point also stressed that limited capacity is a result of missing physical meetings now in times of corona restrictions.
Strong links and international cooperation
The surveyed municipalities regularly cooperate with other municipalities, and with other sectors (i.e., urban planning and building, health, and research sectors including academia) as well as with organisations on the national level like for example In Front network lead by the Norwegian Environment Agency and the climate adaptation network of the Communal Sector Organisation (KS). With regards to safety and preparedness, they mostly interact with hospitals and civil protection.
The national representative mentioned cooperation with Ethiopia on climate and health adaptation as well as networks built via projects participation within EU.
All participants cooperate with academia and the research sector to ensure evidence-based policy making.
Green Deal and Covid recovery plan.
It was difficult to share an opinion on the COVID recovery plan in relation to climate adaptation simply because the COVID pandemic is not over yet. So far, participants experience more focus on preparedness of health facilities to respond to COVID pandemic challenges.
- Klimasårbarhetsanalyse for Oslo (Oslo kommune)
- Ny klimanormal reflekterer klimaendringene (Oslo kommune)
- Floods in Norway (Norges vassdrags- og energidirektorat)
- Sektorrapport om helse og klima (Helsedirektoratet)
- På vei mot en mer klimatilpasset og bærekraftig helsetjeneste: webinar (Helsedirektoratet)
- Evaluering av klimatilpasningsnettverket I Front (Miljødirektoratet)