A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday recommends that countries set ambitious national climate commitments to sustain a healthy and green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report makes 10 recommendations for governments on how to maximize the health benefits of tackling climate change and avoid the worst health impacts of the climate crisis.
The WHO COP26 Special Report on Climate Change and Health, launched Monday, in the lead-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, spelled out the global health community’s prescription for climate action.
The recommendations are the result of consultations with health professionals, organizations and stakeholders worldwide, and represent a broad consensus statement from the global health community on the priority actions governments need to take to tackle the climate crisis, restore biodiversity, and protect health.
The global workforce's recommendations include committing to a healthy and green recovery, placing health and social justice at the heart of UN climate talks, harnessing the health benefits of climate action, building health resilience to climate risks, a just and inclusive transition to renewables to save lives from air pollution from fossil fuels, promoting sustainable and healthy urban design, protecting natural systems, promoting sustainable food production, financing healthier and greener future, and listening to the health community for climate action.
'COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the intimate and delicate links between humans, animals and our environment,' Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, said.
'The same unsustainable choices that are killing our planet are killing people. WHO calls on all countries to commit to decisive action at COP26 to limit global warming to 1.5°C - not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s in our own interests,' he underlined.
-45 million doctors sign open letter for climate action
The report launches along with an open letter signed by over two-thirds of the global health workforce, including 300 organizations representing at least 45 million doctors and health professionals worldwide, calling for national leaders and COP26 country delegations to step up climate action.
'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,' the letter from health professionals read, calling on leaders of every country and their representatives at COP26 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.
The letter calls on all nations to update their commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement by including health issues. It also asks that high-income countries make larger cuts to greenhouse gas emissions in line with the 1.5°C temperature goal, and ensure that pandemic recovery investments support climate action and reduce social and health inequities.
The report and the open letter come at a time of unprecedented extreme weather events and other climate impacts, which are taking a rising toll on people’s lives and health.
'The burning of fossil fuels is killing us. Climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. While no one is safe from the health impacts of climate change, they are disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable and disadvantaged,' the WHO report said.
Air pollution, primarily the result of burning fossil fuels, which also drives climate change, causes 13 deaths per minute worldwide.
The report noted that protecting people’s health requires transformational action in every sector, including energy, transport, nature, food systems and finance. And it states clearly that the public health benefits from implementing ambitious climate actions far outweigh the costs.
'It has never been clearer that the climate crisis is one of the most urgent health emergencies we all face,' said WHO director of Environment, Climate Change and Health, Maria Neira.
By Nuran Erkul Kaya