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Doha health declaration wins major support from European groups

UN Climate Change Conference, COP 18, Doha, Qatar, 26 November-7 December, 2012

Brussels, 5 December 2012 - Health and medical associations sanctioned a protest at the international climate talks in Doha today to highlight the health benefits of taking action on climate change.

Healthy Planet UK, (1) a group of medical students and youth non-governmental organisation delegates staged a sketch showing the planet as a pregnant woman carrying our future - but in need of reanimation. Others demonstrated with placards demanding action on climate adaptation, mitigation and capacity building. (2)

This event came after the launch of the Doha Declaration on Climate, Health and Well-being (3) at a World Health Organization event. The Declaration calls on governments to recognise that a carbon intensive economy and a changing climate contributes to major health problems and increased mortality rates.

The organisations in Doha join other medical practitioners and experts such as Hugh Montgomery, director of the UCL institute for human health who have systematically described (4) not only the health benefits, but the associated cost savings, of supporting effective action to combat climate change at home and abroad.

More than 50 organisations, including five European networks, have signed up to the Doha declaration, which argues that health must be central to climate action.

Among the signatories are World Medical Association, International Council of Nurses, International Federation of Medical Students Associations and five European networks: Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), European Public Health Alliance, European Public Health Association, European Respiratory Society and European Central Council of Homeopathy. HEAL members, International Society of Doctors for the Environment (ISDE), International Network on Children’s Health, Environment and Safety (INCHES) and Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), have also signed.

In welcoming the Declaration, HEAL calls on the European Union to show leadership by increasing the EU emissions reduction target.

“A move by the European Union to announce a 30% reduction target for 2020 is needed to bring negotiations in Qatar forward. Health in Europe will benefit substantially from increasing the EU reduction target. Moving up the bar from 20% to 30% domestic reductions would yield substantial health savings, worth up to 30.5 billion Euros per year (5),” says Génon Jensen, Executive Director of Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).

A HEAL report (5) published in 2010 estimated the extent to which health in Europe would benefit if the EU increased its target on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 from 20% to 30%. It evaluated the costs that could be avoided from this move at 30.5 billion Euros per year by 2020 - quantified by summing up the savings from reduced deaths due to cleaner air, fewer cases of bronchitis and other respiratory illness, and a fall in days of restricted activity due to respiratory symptoms.

The Doha Declaration also highlights how reductions in emissions can deliver many benefits to health worldwide: “Reducing fossil fuel consumption simultaneously improves air quality and improves public health. Shifting to cleaner, safer, low carbon energy systems will save millions of lives each year.”


EU a key actor

The European Union is a key player in implementing and financing measures that benefit both people’s health and the climate. But most importantly, a European commitment to more ambitious climate action has a huge potential to secure real progress at Doha by making other countries follow suit and increase their pledges.

According to a new briefing (6) from Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe the EU is already on course to reach 25% emissions reductions by 2020, or 27% if including reductions from further EU initiatives which are currently in the pipeline.

"Without taking further action, the EU is set to reach 25% emissions reductions by 2020. Surely this is the moment for Commissioner Hedegaard and ministers to show leadership by increasing the EU target to 30%?" says Ms Jensen. "The Doha declaration has achieved support from some of the most influential European health groups yet the EU’s 20% target reflects neither ambition nor the climate and energy policies they are developing," she continues.


Notes for journalists

1. Healthy Planet UK, see www.healthyplanetuk.org

2. Photos of the protest in Doha (Please credit Laurence Watson)

3. The Doha Declaration on Climate, Health and Wellbeing

4. Professor/Dr Hugh Montgomery, newspaper interview and Video: Making connections between health and the environment

5. The full report and a background briefing on Acting NOW for better health: A 30% reduction target for EU climate policy (report by Health and Environment Alliance and Health Care without Harm) are available at http://www.env-health.org/resources/publications/article/acting-now-for-a-better-health-30

6. CAN briefing (4 Dec. 2012), Closing the ambition gap: What Europe can do, available at www.climnet.org


More on climate change and health

Health costs of climate change

Health co-benefits of climate action


Contacts

Génon K. Jensen, Executive Director, Health & Environment Alliance (HEAL), E-mail: genon@env-health.org Website: www.env-health.org

Diana G. Smith, Communications, Health & Environment Alliance (HEAL), Email: diana@env-health.org, Mobile phone: +33 6 33 04 2943.

Last updated on 10 December 2012

About HEAL

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »

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HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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