Global, December 9, 2020:- Although the COP26 UN climate negotiations may be a full year away, health professionals and their organizations must begin mobilizing now if they hope to influence the outcome of COP26 in November 2021, according to a call to action published in The Journal of Climate Change and Health. Authored by members of the Board of Directors of the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA) to mark the anniversary of the 12th December 2015 signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, the commentary, Health professionals, the Paris agreement, and the fierce urgency of now states that:
“Health professionals must join the growing global community of science-based advocates working to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Fulfilling our commitment to protecting and improving the health of all people necessitates a diverse and broad coalition of actors. We must advocate and build support for transforming the world’s energy, transportation, agriculture and other land use systems, fast enough to protect human health and repair the climate system on which it depends. As health professionals, we must help build the public and political will necessary to achieve these aims, just as we work to end addiction and stop vaccine-preventable disease.”
“As a stable global climate is the most fundamental determinant of human health, we believe the Paris Agreement goal is also humanity’s most important public health goal”, said Edward Maibach, MPH, PhD, GCHA board member representing the Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health, and the commentary’s lead author. “The hour is late, and the odds are daunting, but we health professionals have an extraordinary opportunity at hand, and we can and must rise to meet the fierce urgency of this moment. We must never underestimate our ability to influence the course of events”, he continued.
“With COP26 likely to be a crucial turning point which determines the fate of human health, prosperity, equity and justice worldwide, for current and future generations, we must act now to achieve the best possible outcome”, said GCHA executive director Jeni Miller, PhD. “By starting now with advocacy and outreach to national governments, health professionals have the potential to help influence the positive outcome of that meeting, by joining the ranks of those boosting their countries’ climate ambitions and commitments – Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – well before Glasgow 2021.”
“The COVID-19 crisis has placed an enormous burden on already stressed healthcare and public health systems around the world, and left health professionals exhausted and overwhelmed – this is not a sustainable situation”, said Omnia El Omrani, Liaison Officer for Public Health Issues, the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations. “Governments in every country must make greater investments in health and wellbeing, and in the building of communities resilient to climate change and the challenges that it brings for current and future generations to come.”
“Across the world, thousands of hospitals and health systems are already taking climate action, and forming a global movement for health care decarbonization, resilience, and access to clean energy – and this is making a significant contribution to national climate commitments”, said Nicky Philpott, executive director, UK Health Alliance on Climate Change. “By embracing and getting involved in this process, health professionals can help lead broader societal transformations to climate-friendly energy, transportation, food and other systems that support healthy communities on a healthy planet”.
“We’re already seeing health impacts around the world”, said Associate Professor Ying Zhang, MD, PhD, the Climate and Health Alliance. “Extreme weather such as heat waves, storms, floods and droughts directly injure and displace people, and we’re seeing indirect health harms from worsening air pollution, vector-borne diseases, contaminated food and water. Mental health impacts are increasing, and people have been forced into migration away from their homes. People who are marginalized and disempowered are generally harmed the most, though climate change will impact everyone.”
“A top priority for protecting the global climate and human health is eliminating the use of fossil fuels and super-pollutants,” said Jennifer Wang, International Climate Associate Director, Health Care Without Harm. “However we must realize that rapid decarbonization can bring tremendous benefits to human health, economic well being, and community resilience, and reduce global inequities.”
The Global Climate and Health Alliance notes the speech of Christiana Figueres on the impact of COVID-19 and climate change during the December 2nd launch of the 2020 Lancet Countdown report, where she said that, “health professionals are left mopping up the consequences of insufficient policy and insufficient action on climate change and on the ecosystem crisis.” She went on to say that, “health professionals…should feel completely empowered and in fact called to raise their voices, to use their unequaled standing in society right now… to use that authority and that trust that has been given to them by the public, to call for responsibility on climate change and to call for responsibility on ecosystem management. The microphone is to be taken by health professionals!”
“Individually health professionals are trusted, and collectively we can be powerful”, said Dr Claudel Pétrin-Desrosiers, board member Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. “Health professionals must wield this power if we are to overcome the many forces that reinforce the status quo of highly inequitable fossil-fuel driven economies, such as fossil fuel companies who exert undue influence on the energy policies of nations, and authoritarian rulers who pretend that fossil fuels are economically advantageous for their people—when, in fact, they serve only to enrich many of the wealthy and politically powerful in each nation.”
“We must reach out to our national leaders, to our communities, and to business and civic leaders to help them understand that climate change is a public health emergency”, noted Sue Atkinson, Co-Chair of the Climate and Health Council, “and that the positive transformations needed to address climate change offer immense opportunities to improve public health and well being, both immediately, and into the future.”
“As a diverse group of committed citizens, deeply connected to our communities, and with the agency to influence our worlds’ leaders, we—health professionals worldwide—have the potential to help the world strengthen and achieve the goal of the Paris Agreement”, said Fiona Armstrong, Founder and Executive Director, Climate and Health Alliance, Australia.
“It’s imperative that we advocate to governments and build support for transforming the world’s energy, transportation, agriculture and other land use systems fast enough to protect human health and repair the climate system on which it depends”, concluded Miller. “As health professionals, we must help build the public and political will necessary to achieve these aims, just as we work to end addiction and stop vaccine-preventable disease.”
Health professionals can sign up as Climate and Health Champions, here: https://climateandhealthalliance.org/climate-health-champion-signup
Health professionals, the Paris agreement, and the fierce urgency of now is signed by current and former members of the Board of Directors of the Global Climate and Health Alliance:
Fiona Armstrong, RN, MPP, Founder and Executive Director, The Climate and Health Alliance
Sue Atkinson, Co-Chair of the Climate and Health Council
Omnia El Omrani, Liaison Officer for Public Health Issues, The International Federation of Medical Students Associations
Genon Jensen, Executive Director, Health and Environment Alliance
Josh Karliner, International Director of Program and Strategy, Healthcare Without Harm
Edward Maibach, MPH, PhD, Board of Advisors Liaison, Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health
Jeni Miller, PhD, Executive Director, Global Climate and Health Alliance
Dr Claudel Pétrin-Desrosiers, MD, Board Member of The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
Nicky Philpott, Director, UK Health Alliance on Climate Change
Dr Linda Rudolph, MD, Director of the Center for Climate Change and Health at the Public Health Institute, US Climate and Health Alliance
Anne Stauffer, Director for Strategy and Campaigns, Health and Environment Alliance
Jennifer Wang, International Climate Associate Director, Health Care Without Harm
Associate Professor Ying Zhang, MD, PhD, Climate and Health Alliance
Dave Walsh, Communications Advisor, Global Climate and Health Alliance, +34 691 826 764 [email protected]
The Global Climate and Health Alliance is the leading global convenor of health professional and health civil society organizations addressing climate change. We are a consortium of health organisations from around the world united by a shared vision of an equitable, sustainable future, in which the health impacts of climate change are minimized, and the health co-benefits of climate change mitigation are maximised.
Find out more: https://climateandhealthalliance.org/about/