Saturday 21st September 2019
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Endorsing global call to action on climate, health

Director, Centre for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University, USA, Dr Ed Maibach, recently had the opportunity to issue a call to action to Red Cross and Red Crescent Society leaders worldwide at their first-ever World Conference on Health and Climate Change in Cannes, France. Excerpts from his comments:

Dr Ed Maibach
Dr Ed Maibach (right) speaking at the conference

To achieve the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement – limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees C (and if possible 1.5 degrees) – and thereby avoid the most harmful impacts of climate change to human health and wellbeing, the global community must dramatically reduce its use of fossil fuels in the very near future. This goal can be achieved if global carbon emissions peak by 2020 and fall rapidly to near zero over the next several decades.

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Approximately half of the necessary emissions reductions have already been pledged by the nations of the world in the Paris Agreement. If the 2-degree goal is to be achieved, nations must collectively double the current global commitments over the next few years. Realising the 1.5-degree goal will require even bolder action. Building the political will necessary for this to happen will not be easy but doing so is imperative – because failure is not an option.

Health professionals worldwide are in a unique position to help build the political will necessary to achieve the goal of the Paris Agreement. We are among the most trusted members of every nation, and we speak with not only scientific, but also ethical and moral authority. We have – or can get – the attention of our nation’s leaders. We are free of conflicts of interest regarding climate change and health and are scrupulously evidence-based. Most importantly, we are powerful advocates for the very thing that people worldwide care about most and is most threatened by climate change: our health and wellbeing, and that of our children, and their children.

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Climate and health advocacy efforts led by health professionals are already underway in many nations. Each of these is important, but they are not yet tightly focused on achieving the goal of the Paris Agreement. My colleagues and I therefore propose an initiative to rapidly engage, organise and empower a movement of medical, nursing, midwifery, allied health professional, and public health experts and organisations that will seek to convince the leaders of all nations to double the global commitment to the Paris Agreement.

By establishing a simple, clear worldwide objective linked directly to the Paris Agreement – i.e., doubling the current level of emission reduction commitments – and by identifying an exact date by which these objectives must be met, concerned health professionals in every nation will become compelling guides for the difficult but necessary pathway to protect the health and wellbeing of the all the world’s people, especially those most vulnerable to climate change impacts, now and for generations to come. 

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As an important first step, I urge the leaders of all Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (and the leaders of all other health organisations) to endorse the Global Call to Action on Climate and Health:

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