Glasgow, November 9th, 2021:- An open letter signed by 600 organisations, representing 46 million nurses, doctors and health workers worldwide was formally handed over to Gillian Keegan, UK Minister of State for Care and Mental Health, Wendy Morton, UK Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas and Khaled Abdel Ghaffar – Minister of Higher Education and Minister of Scientific Research of Egypt, representing the presidencies of COP26 and COP27, this morning during COP26 Science and Innovation Day in Glasgow.
The letter, delivered as COP26 delegates gathered for the Climate Action for Health event, warns the climate crisis is the single biggest health threat facing humanity and calls on world leaders to deliver on climate action.
Handing over the letter were Poornima Prabhakaran, Deputy Director of the Public Health Foundation of India, Mohammed Eissa, Liaison Officer for Public Health Issues at the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), Cara Cook and Katie Huffling from the Associate of Nurses for Health Environment, Richard Smith, President of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, WHO’s Climate Change and Health lead, Dr Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum and Dr Jeni Miller, Executive Director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance.
The letter was delivered in a blue satchel which also contained the recent Special Report on Climate Change and Health by the World Health Organization (WHO), and was covered in pleas for action from the young people’s forum at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London.
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.”
Both the letter and the report argue that health and equity must be at the center of climate change response; while the letter calls for action, the report provides the blueprint for delivering climate action that will protect the health of people around the world.
The letter, which been signed by diverse medical organisations and high profile individuals, such as WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Medical Association, the International Council of Nurses,The Lancet medical journal, the International Pediatric Association, the World Organization of Family Doctors and the FDI World Dental Federation, calls on all governments “to avert the impending health catastrophe by limiting global warming to 1.5°C, and to make human health and equity central to all climate change mitigation and adaptation actions.”
Both the letter and report were carried by bicycle from Geneva to London (850km) by WHO’s climate change and health lead, Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, who handed them over to 70 paediatric healthcare providers from Ride for their Lives, who in turn took part in bringing the documents the remaining 800km north to Glasgow.
“We are calling on the UK and Egyptian governments to convey the messages contained in this letter to their counterparts around the world from now through to COP27 in Egypt and beyond: health must become the beating heart of climate action”, said Dr Jeni Miller, Executive Director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance. “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 time for delays is over. Health groups around the world are all in for a healthy future, and that means accelerating climate action”.
“The Paris Agreement is a Public Health Treaty. Health professionals around the world have mobilised to protect our health once again. Climate change is the biggest health threat we have faced so far”, said Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health at the World Health Organization.
“With this Healthy Climate Prescription Letter, we are bringing the voices of 46 million healthcare students and professionals to COP26, where unfortunately health was not a priority, and we look forward to COP27 hosted by the Egyptian government to have health in the centre of all policies and decision making processes”, said Mohamed Eissa, Liaison Officer for Public Health Issues, Liaison Officer for Public Health Issues at the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA).
Mark Hayden, a paediatric cardiac intensive care consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, rider and one of the organisers of Ride for their Lives, said: “Our young patients are going to suffer from the climate emergency far more than adult patients, whilst bearing the least responsibility for the situation. But we have known how to beat climate change for decades, it’s a question of getting everyone to take the necessary steps. Health professionals can exert influence at many levels, from rallying communities, to challenging governments, to having sensitive conversations with individual patients and their families. That’s why UK children’s hospitals organised Ride for their Lives. Governments must read the documents and act now to protect life – there’s no more time”.