Protesters in front of the Durban City Hall.

Climate Change and Public Health:
Healthy Climate, Healthy People, Healthy Economy, COP17, Durban.

Organized by Health Care Without Harm, Health & Environment Alliance, Environmental Quality Protection Foundation, International Federation of Medical Students’ Association (IFMSA)

Pendo Maro, Health Care Without Harm & Health and Environment Alliance, moderated the panel discussions, emphasizing the positive message available with tangible medium and long-term impacts to health, economy, and the environment.

Elena Villalobos, World Health Organization (WHO), emphasized the power of the health community, highlighting the increased participation in climate change negotiations. She acknowledged the progress made through partnerships, especially in advocacy. She indicated the gap between legal framework and action, referring to the Convention´s definition of adverse effects of climate change, including: implications to health; and references to commitments such as reporting of any adaptation and mitigation programmes.

Nick Watts, IFMSA, outlined the outcome from the Summit that took place on 4 December 2011, that produced the Durban Declaration on Climate and Health. He highlighted the key actions: education and research coordination efforts; mitigation and adaptation within the health system; nationally-based advocacy, reframing issues to the public health sector as a mechanisms to mobilize society; and recognition of the utility of other platforms in addition to the UNFCCC process. He said “although we may be leaving COP 17 without a deal, we do not leave without hope and optimism, looking to the future with re-motivation.”

Shu-Ti Chiou, International Network of Health Promoting Hospital & Health Services, explained the role of the health sector in the climate change crisis, urging for: advocacy; example setting in lowering greenhouse gas emissions; and promotion of health and environmental co-benefits such as breastfeeding. She celebrated the power of the health sector having a credible voice on health issues, sharing examples from Taiwan in the establishment of environmentally- friendly hospitals.

Ensuing discussions focused on: ability of communities to influence climate negotiations; utilization of existing instruments; exposure to harmful chemicals in hospitals; gender issues and potential for disaggregating data to provide evidence of social implication of climate change; education challenges and opportunities; links to financing; and risk reduction.

Read more