Ahead of the COP26 in Glasgow, United Kingdom, more than 400 organizations representing 45 million nurses, doctors and other health workers worldwide have signed an open letter to 197 government leaders.
The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference is the 26th and will take place between October 31 and November 12, 2021.
The professionals warned that the climate crisis is the single biggest health threat facing humanity and urged on world leaders to act.
The letter’s publication coincides with the release of a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO), which argues that countries can only ensure a long-term recovery from the pandemic by implementing ambitious climate commitments.
The report delivers ten recommendations, backed by action points, resources and case studies, including the need to place health and social justice at the heart of the UN climate talks.
The letter states: “Wherever we deliver care, in our hospitals, clinics and communities around the world, we are already responding to the health harms caused by climate change.
“Those people and nations who have benefited most from the activities that caused the climate crisis, especially fossil fuel extraction and use, have a great responsibility to do everything possible to help those who are now most at risk.”
On the new WHO report, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, said climate change impacts health in all countries, but it hits people in low- and middle-income countries the hardest.
Ghebreyesus warned that any delay in acting on this global health threat will disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged around the world.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a visceral example of the inequitable impacts of such a global threat. To fully address the urgency of both these crises, we need to confront the inequalities that lie at the root of so many global health challenges.”
Jeni Miller, Executive Director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance, said wildfires, flooding, heatwaves and droughts impacting people’s health have been on the rise around the world, compounding other health challenges such as the pandemic.
Miller noted that integrating health and equity into climate policy “will protect peoples’ health, maximise returns on investments, and build public support for the urgently needed responses from governments to the climate crisis”.
The health professionals want: a rapid transition away from fossil fuels; high income countries to provide promised transfer of climate funds; investments in low carbon health systems; pandemic recovery investments to support climate action, and reduced social and health inequities.
The signatories represent every region of the world and include the International Council of Nurses, the World Medical Association, the International Federation of Medical Students Associations, the International Confederation of Midwives, and the International Pediatrics Association.
COP26: 45 million health pros declare climate biggest threat, urge world leaders to act