Climate change threatens the foundations of human wellbeing: clean air, secure and safe food and water, protection from disasters, and freedom from disease. The good news is that many of the actions necessary to mitigate and adapt to climate change have significant and immediate co-benefits for human well-being.

To take but one example, curbing emissions of climate pollutants can help reduce the approximately 7 million annual deaths from outdoor and household air pollution — one of the leading causes of death globally.

Acting on climate change can improve the quality of life in our cities, stimulate technological innovations, and open up new, green employment opportunities. Properly designed climate change responses can improve air and water quality and food security, create safer, more resilient workplaces, schools and public buildings, and support healthier lifestyles with fresher foods, improved rapid public transport, and more urban green spaces.

Action is needed now, while we still have time to plan and shape our futures. Should we fail to act, the threats posed by climate change will continue to grow, with the health and well-being of the poorest, most vulnerable members of the global community most seriously affected.

This session will feature leaders from large cities, labour movements, health experts and prominent officials as they describe what actions are needed and what co-benefits the world can reap by reducing the risks of climate change.

Session Notes

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H.E. Mr. Sauli Niinistö, President of Finland

H. E. Mr. Sauli Niinistö, President of the Republic of Finland

Sauli Niinistö is the President of the Republic of Finland, and assumed office on March 1, 2012.
He was born on August 24, 1948 in Salo, Finland. He earned a master’s degree in law in 1974 at the University of Turku, and practiced law at his own law office from 1978 to 1988. As a Member of National Coalition Party, Sauli Niinistö was elected to the Parliament of Finland from 1987 to 2003 and from 2007 to 2011. He served as a Minister of Justice from 1995 to 1996, and as a Minister of Finance from 1996 to 2003. He acted also as a Deputy Prime Minister from 1995 to 2001. From 2007 to 2011 he served as the Speaker of the Parliament. From 2003 to 2007 Sauli Niinistö served as the Vice President of the European Investment Bank (EIB) in Luxembourg. President Niinistö is married to Jenni Haukio and has two adult sons from his previous marriage. He is
active in sports, and was Chairman of the Finnish Football Association from 2009 to 2012. He is also actively engaged in helping young people in danger of exclusion from society, and is one of the founders of ‘Godparents in Support’ Foundation.


Portrait of Gro Harlem Brundtland

Gro Harlem Brundtland, The Elders

Gro Harlem Brundtland, a medical doctor, was Norway’s first woman Prime Minister, serving a total of ten years as head of government between 1981 and 1996. She chaired the World Commission on Environment and Development – known as the Brundtland Commission – which articulated the principle of sustainable development for the first time at a global level. She was Director-General of the World Health Organization from 1998 to 2003, UN Special Envoy for Climate Change from 2007 to 2010 and, from 2011 to 2012, was a member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability. She is currently Vice Chair of the United Nations Foundation, and Deputy Chair of The Elders, a group of independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights.


J.Tang photoTang Jie, Vice Mayor of Shenzhen

Tang Jie has been the Vice Mayor of the Shenzhen Municipal Government of China since 2009, and he leads the work of the Shenzhen Development and Reform Commission. Mr. Tang was the Deputy Director-General of the Standing Committee of the Shenzhen Municipal People’s Congress (MPC) from 2007 to 2009. He was also the Secretary-General of the Shenzhen Municipal Government from 2003 to 2007. Mr. Tang obtained a Ph.D. in Economics in 1993 and a Master’s Degree in Political Economics in 1986 from Nankai University. He worked at the Nankai Institute of Economics at Nankai University as a Lecturer, Associate Professor, Deputy Dean from 1986 to 1995 and he was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Pennsylvania from September 1992 to October 1993 , and the deputy dean and professor of China development institute from March 1995 to September 1998. Now he still is part-time professor of economics at HIT, Nankai university  and Peking university HSBC school of business.
Mr. Tang was born in July 1955 in Deyang, Sichuan.


Sharan Burrow

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

Sharan Burrow was elected as General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in 2010. The ITUC is the world’s peak labour union body and represents 176 million workers in 161 countries and territories and has 325 national affiliates. Sharan began her working life as a high school teacher in Australia. She became a union organiser and served on various union bodies during the 1980s and 1990s. Sharan served as President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) from 2000-2010. She played a critical role in resolving industrial disputes, and led union campaigns and negotiations on major economic reforms. Sharan is well known for her international advocacy on labour standards, corporate responsibility, climate change, investment in infrastructure and the green economy, global migration and employment. She has represented workers and civil society groups in global policy discussions at the G20, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and United Nations bodies, including ECOSOC. She has served as a member of the Stakeholder Council of the Global Reporting Initiative, the UN Global Commission on International Migration (under UN Secretary General Kofi Annan) and the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation. Sharan has represented trade unions at the World Economic Forum (WEF) for the past 12 years. In 2011 she was a Faculty Member of the WEF as Chair of the Global Agenda Council on Employment and Social Protection. She currently serves as a member of the High Level Advisory Committee to the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice and is a commissioner on the Global Commission on Economy and Climate. Sharan Burrow maintains close working relations with civil society groups across a range of current debates and in development and climate related forums.

Dr Ramanathan Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego

Veerabhadran Ramanathan is a Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. He currently leads an international science team from Asia, Africa and Latin America under the Atmospheric Brown Clouds Program sponsored by the United Nations Environmental Programme. He also serves in Pope Francis’ Council for the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and was awarded the UNESCO’s Chair on ‘Climate and Policy’ at TERI University in New Delhi, India. Veerabhadran Ramanathan discovered the greenhouse effect of halo carbons (CFCs) in 1975 and used his observations to quantify the large global warming effect of black carbon. He correctly predicted in 1980 that the CO2 induced global warming will be detected before the year 2000. He developed unmanned aircraft platforms for tracking brown cloud pollution worldwide. Based on these field campaigns, he proposed a new approach for mitigating climate change and drastically reducing near-term global warming that involves mitigating emissions of four short lived climate pollutants (SLCPs). He is now implementing this new approach through different field projects. Veerabhadran Ramanathan has won numerous prestigious awards including the Tyler prize, the Volvo Prize, the Rossby Prize and the Zayed prize. In 2013, he was awarded the top environmental prize from the United Nations: the Champions of the Earth for Science and Innovation.


Richard Horton

Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet.

Richard Horton was born in London and is half Norwegian. He qualified in physiology and medicine with honours from the University of Birmingham in 1986. He joined The Lancet in 1990, moving to New York as North American Editor in 1993. Richard was the first President of the World Association of Medical Editors and he is a Past-President of the US Council of Science Editors. He is an honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University College London, and the University of Oslo. He has also received honorary doctorates in medicine from the University of Birmingham, UK, and the Universities of Umea and Gothenburg in Sweden. In 2011, he was appointed co-chair of the UN’s independent Expert Review Group on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health, part of whose remit is to monitor progress of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health. He is a Senior Associate of the UK health-policy think-tank, the Nuffield Trust. Richard received the Edinburgh medal in 2007 and the Dean’s medal from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in 2009. He has written two reports for the Royal College of Physicians of London: Doctors in Society (2005) and Innovating for Health (2009). He wrote Health Wars (2003) about contemporary issues in medicine and health, and he has written regularly for The New York Review of Books and the TLS. He has a strong interest in global health and medicine’s contribution to our wider culture. In 2011, he was elected a Foreign Associate of the US Institute of Medicine.


United Nations Hosts

Marina Maiero
Technical Officer, Evidence and Policy on Environmental Health
World Health Organization (WHO)

Amber Barth
Programme Officer, Office for the UN
International Labour Organization (ILO)

UN Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team

Marianne Chaumel