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Ethics briefing
  1. Rebecca Mussell1,
  2. Sophie Brannan1,
  3. Veronica English1,
  4. Caroline Ann Harrison2,
  5. Julian C Sheather3
  1. 1 Medical Ethics, British Medical Association, London, UK
  2. 2 Ethics, BMA, London, UK
  3. 3 Medical Ethics, BMA, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Rebecca Mussell, Medical Ethics, British Medical Association, London WC1H 9JP, UK; rmussell{at}

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Health, ethics and COP27

On the 20 November 2022, the United Nations Climate Change COP27 announced a breakthrough agreement to provide ‘loss and damage’ funding for resource-poor countries seriously affected by climate change.1 The establishment of the funding stream acknowledges, and attempts to address, one of many thorny ethical issues driven by climate change – to what extent countries that have benefited economically from past emissions of greenhouse gases owe reparative obligations to countries who have contributed minimally to climate change but are most at risk of its harms?

One of the many reasons why this is such an important breakthrough is that it brings into the centre of climate policy-making questions of global – and intergenerational – justice and fairness. It acknowledges the critical importance of ethics in climate change deliberations. It is probably fair to say that climate change policy has been dominated to date by scientific and economistic disciplines. Important as these are, getting ethics into the picture has been difficult.2 The development of the ‘loss and damage’ fund, and the global commitment to reducing the burdens of climate change for the most vulnerable countries suggests that this might be changing.

Among the serious acknowledged harms of climate change are harms to human health. There is now a significant body of medical and allied literature addressing the health impacts of climate change.3 At COP 27, the WHO’s health pavilion held seminars on a range of topics in health and climate change. These included issues such as: gender, health and climate change; opportunities …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.