1st November, 00:01 hrs CEST: A letter published today on behalf of the international health and medical community, addressed to COP 28 President-Designate Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber demands that “countries commit to an accelerated, just and equitable phase-out of fossil fuels as the decisive path to health for all” at the annual UN climate conference, taking place in December in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
For the first time in the history of climate talks, there will be an entire day dedicated to health, providing an opportunity to address the direct health impacts of climate change on individual wellbeing and health care systems.
The letter, supported by organisations that represent 46.3 million health professionals such as the World Medical Association, World Federation of Public Health Association and International Council of Nurses, outlines the critical need to protect human health by reducing dependence on fossil fuels, rapidly investing in clean energy technology and reducing air pollution – all from the perspective that public health will benefit from this rapid transition. This letter is also endorsed by leading medical journals such as the British Medical Journal.
The full text of the letter is available at https://cop28healthletter.com/
Dr. Lujain Alqodmani, President, World Medical Association
“As representatives of the global medical community, we fully support this letter. We are already seeing the impacts of the climate crisis on our health – heat stress, malnutrition, anxiety, vector-borne diseases, respiratory illnesses due to dirty air to name a few. Extreme weather events have another far reaching impact- hospitals and healthcare centres that are meant to provide cure and relief are often first in the line of fire, with access and infrastructure getting hit. Our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels will only aggravate this further. This is why we think that a rapid transition to clean and equitable forms of energy is a win-win on all fronts.”
Prof. Luis Eugenio de Souza, President, World Federation for Public Health Associations
To protect public health from climate change, the health sector must become a leading voice for a rapid, just, and equitable transition away from fossil fuels and toward accessible, affordable, clean, renewable and healthy energy. If we cannot rapidly kick civilization’s fossil fuel addiction, many of our efforts at health development will be in vain. The health sector cannot adapt its way out of the climate crisis.
Dr. Pam Cipriano, President, International Council of Nurses
“When disaster strikes, hospitals and health care centres are often at the forefront. They are also the epicenter of addressing the escalating and noxious effects of climate change that are robbing people of their health. We are seeing more people come into our health care centres, hospitals and clinics complaining of heat exhaustion, respiratory issues and allergies, second hand smoke exposure among other things. We firmly believe that COP28 is an opportunity to adopt unified solutions and take action to implement mitigation and adaptation policies that also protect our health. This means phasing out “dirty energy” like coal, oil and gas that have negative impacts on health and the environment and prioritising clean energy sources. We must invest in a healthy and climate-safe future–the time to act on this is now.”
A key demand of the letter is that fossil fuel industry representatives be excluded from climate negotiations. Fossil fuel interests have no place at climate negotiations…. Just as the tobacco industry is not allowed to participate in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, it is imperative to safeguard global collaboration on climate progress from the lobbying, disinformation, and delays in favour of industry interests.” Last year’s COP27 saw a record number of representatives for the oil and gas industry in attendance, and this year the number is expected to be higher.
The letter also states that
- A full and rapid phase-out of fossil fuels is the most significant way to address health impacts of climate change
- An energy transition that is just and equitable for all
- Unlocking finance is an essential path to deliver this transition
Jeni Miller, Executive Director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance
Around the world, the impacts of increasing floods, heat waves, fires and droughts drive home the point that the climate crisis is also, profoundly, a health and humanitarian crisis. People are being displaced, suffering and dying due to warming temperatures. At current levels of warming, health and humanitarian systems are already at their limits. While we welcome the COP28 Presidency making health a focus of the negotiations – putting the focus squarely on what climate change actually means for people’s lives – every government must put people’s health and well-being first, starting to fully phase out fossil fuels – thereby addressing the key drivers of global warming.
Josh Karliner, Director of Global Partnerships, Health Care Without Harm
While it is essential to pursue adaptation and resilience measures in response to climate change, it is crystal clear that the health sector cannot adapt its way out of the climate crisis. Fossil fuel combustion is driving this crisis and its escalating health impacts, therefore to protect people’s health around the world we must end our addiction to coal, oil and gas. In order to protect public health from climate change the health sector urgently needs accelerate the decarbonization of its own fossil fuel dependent operations and supply chain, while joining forces with other sectors of society to foster a rapid and just transition away from coal, oil and gas and toward clean, renewable, healthy energy all around the world.
If you’d like to know more about the letter or get in touch with spokespersons
- Tom Clark, Communications Lead, Health Care Without Harm, [email protected]
- Dave Walsh, Communications Advisor, Global Climate and Health Alliance, [email protected]
Paige Knappenberger, Climate Nexus, [email protected]
ADDITIONAL SUPPORTING QUOTES
Dr Christos Christou, International President, Médecins Sans Frontières
We think it is important to sign this letter, because as health workers, we are treating patients experiencing the health impacts of the climate emergency first-hand. It is very clear: this crisis is disproportionately hitting the most vulnerable people. We work in some of the most climate-vulnerable settings in the world where people already lack access to or are excluded from basic healthcare. These people are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis, yet they are the least responsible for the emissions that generate the climate crisis. Failing to stay well under 2.0 degrees of warming is an existential threat for many people in the humanitarian contexts where we work.
Gro Harlem Brundtland, Member of The Elders; First woman Prime Minister of Norway; former Director-General of WHO
The Elders join health leaders in calling on the COP28 Presidency and all countries to commit to an accelerated, just and equitable phase-out of all fossil fuels. To safeguard the wellbeing of future generations, we must sever our dangerous reliance on fossil fuels and move quickly to support a transition into renewable energy so we can stay within the 1.5°C limit pledged in Paris. Without a resolute commitment to phasing out fossil fuels, we risk undoing our hard-won progress in safeguarding human health.”
Aggrey Aluso, Africa Director, Pandemic Action Network
“Ending fossil fuel dependence is a prerequisite for a healthier world. The climate change effects are choking our people and our planet, and on top of this disease outbreaks will become more frequent — increasing the risk of emerging pandemic threats. We must take action now to prevent pandemics from taking hold, and part of addressing the root cause is reducing carbon emissions through an accelerated, fair, and just transition.”
Dr. Mary T. Bassett, Former Health Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, US
The need for immediate action on the climate crisis couldn’t be more apparent and the phase out of fossil fuels now is an urgent requirement. Additionally, the impact of the climate crisis is and will continue to be very unequal, both within and between countries, widening gaps between rich and poor, people of color and communities most harmed by climate change and fossil fuel pollution.
Dr. Fiona Godlee, former editor-in-chief, British Medical Journal
“I echo the urgent call for a just transition away from fossil fuels, on this inaugural Health Day of Climate COP28. Fossil fuels are already causing premature death and illness on a massive scale and now threaten our human survival. It is our duty as health professionals to alert the world to the danger, to call for radical change, and to champion a sustainable, equitable future for all. The health of our planet is inseparable from the health of its inhabitants.”
Dr. Salman Khan, Liaison Officer for Public Health Issues, International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), India
“Rapidly moving away from fossil fuels is more than an environmental imperative—it’s a direct call to protect human health and the essence of our planet. In the spirit of global unity and the values of IFMSA, we urge for immediate and bold climate action, lest time runs out.”
Dr. Arvind Kumar, Chairman, Institute of Chest Surgery-Chest Onco Surgery and Lung Transplantation, Medanta Hospital, India
“As a lung surgeon, I witness the devastating toll of fossil fuel combustion on people’s respiratory health every day. With the inaugural Health Day at COP28, we have a historic opportunity to make bold and courageous decisions. I have joined the global health and medical community in signing a letter demanding an end to fossil fuel dependency. It is our urgent duty to safeguard public health through a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels, substantial investments in clean energy technology, and the reduction of toxic pollution. Let this day be remembered as the moment when we put people’s health and well-being at the forefront of our climate action agenda. This opportunity must not be lost.”
Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, Executive Director, Sunway Center for Planetary Health, Malaysia
“Recognizing that our health is inextricably linked to the health and well-being of our planetary home and everything that lives here, I believe we have a moral responsibility to act. For the sake of this generation and generations to come we need to redouble our efforts to ensure a sustainable and healthy future for our planet and its inhabitants”
Dr. Lwando Maki, President-Elect, Public Health Association of South Africa
“As a young medical doctor from South Africa, I bear witness to the profound and devastating impacts of climate change. On this inaugural Health Day of Climate COP28, I implore health professionals to be the beacon for a just transition away from fossil fuels, for in our hands lies the power to heal both the health of individuals and our ailing planet, forging a healthier world for all.”
Kari C. Nadeau, MD PhD, Chair of the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard School of Public Health, US
“I signed this important letter because fossil fuels contribute to pollution which then harms people over their lifetime. I have seen first hand how my patients and family have suffered from climate change events and I have also witnessed how hundreds of solutions, like using renewable energy, can improve people’s health and the planet’s health. I want to be part of the solution to help not harm our planet and its people.”
Dr. Latifa Patel, Representative Body Chair, British Medical Association
“The climate crisis is a health emergency. As doctors working on the front line, our members see first-hand the devastating impact of climate change and air pollution on our patients. It’s vital that doctors, healthcare workers and health experts worldwide stand together and send a clear message to the COP28 Presidency and world leaders that international action and cooperation is vital to ensure a just, equitable and rapid phase out of fossil fuels to safeguard the future of the planet and the wellbeing of the global population.”
Dr. Frances Peart, President & Board Chair, Climate and Health Alliance, Australia
Harvard University links fossil fuel pollution with 1 in 5 deaths worldwide. As a major fossil fuel exporter, Australia must take responsibility for its historic and ongoing contribution to this massive health burden at home and internationally. Australia’s health and environment sectors expect the Commonwealth Government to do its part in facilitating meaningful global action that realizes the immense and immediate health benefits of clean, renewable energy.
Dr. Marina Romanello, Executive Director, Lancet Countdown
“The health community are on the frontline of climate change; already responding to the health harms caused by increasing temperatures and extreme weather events that pose risks to people’s lives and livelihoods. We have years of evidence that these risks are rapidly worsening, yet action has thus far failed to match the scale and pace needed to curb emissions and adapt to the increasingly inhospitable conditions we face. That is why we stand together to call for climate action which protects people around the world and delivers a thriving future for all.”
Ralph Regenvanu, Vanuatu’s Minister for Climate Change Adaptation, Energy, Environment, Meteorology, Geohazards and Disaster Management.
“Vanuatu simply cannot accept the continued expansion of fossil fuel production, or an expansion of subsidies propping up this dirty and planet-killing source of energy. Without an unambiguous outcome on fossil fuel phase out at COP28, each producing nation will continue to argue they should be the last one to produce the last barrel of oil because they can produce it in a “clean” way or abate emissions with unproven and unscalable technology, which will take us beyond 1.5 degrees, cause further catastrophic loss and damage, undermine fundamental rights to health, and wipe entire Islands, our homes, off the map.”
Dr. Naveen Thacker, President, International Pediatric Association, India
“Championing genuine climate progress means committing to a swift, equitable phase-out of fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy. This is the definitive path to health for all. The International Pediatric Association is committed to a sustainable and healthier future.”
List of available Spokespersons
Please reach out to Tom Clark via [email protected] to get in touch with any spokespersons listed, unless otherwise indicated.
- Dr. Lujain Alqodmani, President, World Medical Association
- Dr. Pam Cipriano, International Council of Nurses
- Dr. Fiona Godlee, former editor-in-chief, British Medical Journal
- Josh Karliner, Director of Global Partnerships, Health Care Without Harm
- Dr. Salman Khan, Liaison Officer for Public Health Issues, International Federation of Medical Students’ AssocIations
- Dr. Arvind Kumar, Chairman, Institute of Chest Surgery-Chest Onco Surgery and Lung Transplantation, Medanta Hospital, India via Shweta Narayan, [email protected]
- Jeni Miller, Executive Director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance via Dave Walsh, [email protected]
- Dr. Latifa Patel, Chair of the Representative Body, British Medical Association
- Remy Shergill, Climate and Health Alliance (Australia)
- Dr. Naveen Thacker, President, International Pediatric Association