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Leading Health Organizations Rally Around Call to Action to Protect People’s Health from Climate Change

September 12, 2018

Representatives of millions of health professionals and thousands of hospitals from around the world call on local, national and global policymakers to act now for healthy people on a healthy planet

SAN FRANCISCO – Sept. 12, 2018 – Today dozens of leading health organizations representing more than five million doctors, nurses and public health professionals, and 17,000 hospitals, in more than 120 countries announced commitments and unveiled a Call to Action on Climate and Health aimed at accelerating stronger advocacy and action in addressing climate change—the greatest health threat of the 21st century. The commitments were made as part of the Global Climate and Health Forum at the University of California, San Francisco, an affiliate event to the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.

The commitments announced at the Forum include efforts by hospitals, doctors, nurses and health professionals to take meaningful action to protect public health from climate change. Among these were more than 176 health care institutions representing 17,000 hospitals and health centers in 26 countries that are committing to reduce their carbon emissions by more than 16 million metric tons a year— the equivalent of shutting down four coal fired power plants. 

More than 1,200 of these hospitals in both developed and developing countries are also committing to use only 100 percent renewable electricity to power health. More than 200 nurses in 22 states in the U.S. have committed to the Nurses Climate Challenge, launching a movement committed to educating their peers and forging climate solutions in care settings and in the community. And 24 major health organizations across the United States have joined the We Are Still In (WASI) coalition, adding a health voice to the message that the United States is still committed to the Paris Agreement.

“Every breath matters and we all have an inalienable right to life on a healthy planet. It’s absolutely critical that the health sector’s voice and perspective on climate action is heard loud and clear by the public and at all levels of government.” said Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and convener of Mission2020.

The Call to Action is endorsed by over 50 organizations from across the globe, including the World Federation of Public Health Associations, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, the International Federation of Medical Students Associations, Dignity Health, Kaiser Permanente and the American Lung Association.  It outlines 10 priority actions that will significantly protect lives and improve people’s health in the era of climate change:

  1. Meet and strengthen the commitments under the Paris Agreement.
  2. Transition away from the use of coal, oil and natural gas to clean, safe and renewable energy.
  3. Transition to zero-carbon transportation systems with an emphasis on active transportation.
  4. Build local, healthy and sustainable food and agricultural systems.
  5. Invest in policies that support a just transition for workers and communities adversely impacted by the move to a low-carbon economy.
  6. Ensure that gender equality is central to climate action.
  7. Raise the health sector voice in the call for climate action.
  8. Incorporate climate solutions into all health care and public health systems.
  9. Build resilient communities in the face of climate change.
  10. Invest in climate and health.

Climate change threatens to undo decades of health and development gains. Extreme heat and weather events caused thousands of deaths and displaced over 200 million people between 2008 and 2015; air pollution, whose primary driver—fossil fuel combustion—is also the primary driver of climate change, caused over 7 million deaths in 2016; vector-borne diseases are spreading to new communities; the agricultural, food, and water systems we depend on for our survival are under threat; and the frequency and severity of droughts, floods, and fires are increasing.

Climate action in the energy, transportation, land use, agricultural and other sectors would avoid millions of preventable deaths each year. Shifting to renewable energy, sustainable food production and diets, active transportation and green cities will lower climate pollution and reduce the incidence of communicable and non-communicable disease, improve mental health, and bring significant health care cost savings.

“Climate change is the greatest health threat and opportunity of the 21st century and the health sector must lead the way to call on local, national and global policymakers to act now to significantly reduce climate pollution and build climate resilience,” said Dr. Maria Neira, director, Department of Public Health, Environment, and Social Determinants of Health, World Health Organization. “With the right policies and investments today, we have the opportunity to realize our vision of healthy people in healthy places on a healthy planet.”

Today’s announcements were made as part of the Global Climate and Health Forum, focused on building the capacity of the global health response to climate change by strengthening collaboration across all health sector stakeholders, raising the health voice for climate action and mobilizing health sector commitments to climate change solutions. The one-day forum featured prominent speakers from United Nations organizations, climate and health NGOs, health organizations, government and the private sector.

The Global Climate and Health Forum was hosted by Health Care Without Harm, the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Global Health Group, the U.S. Climate and Health Alliance and the Global Climate and Health Alliance. The event was sponsored by Dignity Health, Glaser Progress Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, Wellcome Trust, United Nations Development Programme, The Kresge Foundation, The California Endowment, American Public Health Association, Public Health Institute and the American Lung Association. The Forum was organized in collaboration with the World Health Organization.

 

Statements from host organizations:

Linda Rudolph, MD, MPH
US Climate and Health Alliance

"Climate change is impacting the health of people and communities around the world—right now. It exacerbates existing health challenges—like asthma, heart disease, food insecurity, and health inequities—and has the greatest impact on low-income and marginalized communities. Robust action to reduce climate pollution and build healthy places is good for our health; we can’t wait any longer. That's why the U.S. Climate and Health Alliance stands with health professionals and health organizations around the world calling for urgent, aggressive and immediate action to fight climate change."

 

Josh Karliner, international director, program and strategy
Health Care Without Harm

"While climate change is showing up in real and devastating ways around the world, health care everywhere is also showing up to work for healthy people and a healthy planet. Hospitals and health centers from California to Costa Rica, Spain to Sweden and Nepal to New Zealand are committed to reducing their climate impact by powering their facilities with 100% renewable electricity. This means large hospitals are reducing their considerable carbon emissions, while smaller health clinics are insuring more equitable access to care by powering health in places where there is no electricity. Health care around the world is also reaching beyond the hospital walls to protect public health from both air pollution and climate change by advocating for policies that accelerate the transition to the 100% clean energy economy."

 

Sir Richard Feachem, director of the Global Health Group
University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Institute for Global Health Sciences

“Climate change threatens to undermine the great advances that we have achieved in global health over the past 50 years and will have devastating impacts on the well-being of people around the world. My five decades working in global health have taught me that, when we unite around a shared goal, tremendous progress can be achieved. We have the scientific and technical knowledge needed to solve the problem of climate change. Now we need to advance a shared vision and build the political will to get the job done. Today’s Call to Action shows the way towards a game-changing movement to bend the curve on climate change. The global health community needs to lead in this fight. The Global Climate and Health Forum is an important step in mobilizing health leadership to protect our health and that of future generations from the threat of climate change.”

 

Jeni Miller, PhD, executive director
Global Climate and Health Alliance

"Countries around the world are increasingly feeling the brunt of climate change. Doctors, nurses and public health professionals see, more and more, the impact on the patients and communities we serve. That’s why a growing movement of health organizations are taking action on climate change within our own walls, and why we are calling for increased action across all sectors, and at all levels of government. To keep global warming to levels compatible with human health, the time for half measures is long past. We must, as a global community, rise to this occasion. With health at the center of climate action, we can drive forward the transformative changes needed to keep our climate stable, and along the way end up with cleaner air, greener communities, and a healthier, more livable world for our children and our children’s children."

 


 

The full Call to Action and a complete list of commitments and signatories of the Call to Action is available at https://www.globalclimateandhealthforum.org/.