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Health impact of climate change not recognised in Parliamentary resolution

Press release, Brussels, 20 October 2009 - Not one amendment on the need to protect public health was accepted in the European Parliament’s Resolution on Climate Change agreed last night. (1)

Two leading European health organisations received the news with disappointment. The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) are leading a campaign in Europe to increase focus on the effects on human health of climate change and to bring the voice of the health sector in the crucial weeks leading up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Copenhagen, 7-18 December 2009. (2)

Circumstances were against the health-friendly amendments: over 200 amendments had been tabled and the political parties wanted to keep the text of the Resolution short and focused on Copenhagen.

HEAL and HCWH had hoped that at least one of the amendments tabled (see below) would be agreed so that the consequences for health of climate change would receive a mention.

"Despite the fact that climate change could erode current public health achievements globally and in Europe, amendments to add the effects on human health in this crucial resolution from the European Parliament have not been voted. We are dismayed at this omission," says Pendo Maro

The World Health Organization considers that climate change could put at risk or even reverse progress towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals, which includes public health targets. One amendment referred to the risk that these goals might even be reversed by the effects of climate change. (See all proposed health amendments below)

An amendment tabled by MEP Frederique Ries (ALDE, Belgium) makes reference to the need for domestic reductions to achieve protection public health in European countries.

"To avoid worsening air quality from high ozone levels during hot temperatures, emissions cuts need to take place at home rather than being implemented as "offsets" through tree planting in developing countries for example," Pendo Maro added.

"Our recent report shows that savings on health costs achieved from a higher target on carbon emission reductions may reach 25 billion Euros per year from 2020 onwards. (3) These savings would result from avoiding the costs of premature deaths, hospital admissions, days lost to ill health and extra medications that would be associated with higher levels of air pollution if strong action is not taken.

If the health amendments to the resolution had been passed, it would have sent an important message to the EU delegation to the climate change talks on the serious consequences of climate change for health and quality of life in Europe and around the world.

The following health-related amendments to the EP Resolution on climate change were rejected during evening of 19 October 2009.

  • Amendment 19 Satu Hassi, Bas Eickhout Draft motion for a resolution Recital C a (new)

Draft motion for a resolution Amendment

Ca. whereas a binding international framework leading to emission reductions on the necessary scale will also have large immediate co-benefits to global health, and whereas without such a framework progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals is at risk, and could be reversed,

  • Amendment 40 Frédérique Ries Draft motion for a resolution Paragraph 1

Draft motion for a resolution Amendment

1. Urges the EU to speak with one voice to maintain its leading role in the negotiations at COP 15, and to maintain a high level of ambition in discussions with its international partners, in order to achieve an ambitious international agreement in Copenhagen, in line with the latest developments in science and consistent with the 2ºC objective and with the protection of global health;

  • Amendment 67 Frédérique Ries Draft motion for a resolution Paragraph 3

Draft motion for a resolution Amendment

3. Recalls that the international agreement should ensure collective greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the industrialized countries at the high end of the 25-40 % range for 2020 compared to 1990 as recommended by the Fourth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 4AR), and calls for those reductions to be domestic to ensure significant health benefits especially for people with respiratory diseases and recalls that a long-term reduction target should be set for the EU and the other industrialised countries of at least 80 % by 2050 compared to 1990;

  • Amendment 100 Frédérique Ries Draft motion for a resolution Paragraph 5

Draft motion for a resolution Amendment

5. Emphasises that an agreement in Copenhagen could provide the necessary stimulus for a ’Green New Deal’ boosting economic growth, promoting green technologies and securing new jobs in both industrialised and in developing countries; recognises that upfront investments by the public sector in a green energy infrastructure and in complementary research and development will bring down costs, not only for industry but also for public health and healthcare institutions;

Contact:

Diana Smith, Communications, Health and Environment Alliance, Mobile: +33 6 33 04 2943. E-mail: Diana@env-health.org Website: www.env-health.org

Notes to journalists

1. See http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetd... (not yet updated)

2. HEAL and HCWH have launched the "Prescription for a Healthy Planet" asking the EU to provide a better “treatment” for the ailing climate negotiations. For details of the campaign visit the "Climate change" section at www.env-health.org The Prescription provides a simple set of policy recommendations for EU and global negotiators. It argues that health professionals have the moral authority to help push for a 40% target on carbon emission reductions and an EU contribution to global financing of 35 billion Euros per year. The Prescription, which has been signed by several leading health and medical organisations including the Climate and Health Council, UK and the European Respiratory Society, calls on European leaders to: Protect public health, Shift to clean energy, Reduce emissions, and Finance global action.

3. "The co-benefit to health of a strong EU climate change policy" published by HEAL, WWF and Climate Action Network Europe in December 2008 at http://www.env-health.org/IMG/pdf/C....

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) aims to raise awareness of how environmental protection improves health. It brings together more than 60 organizations working at the European level. Website: www.env-health.org

Health Care Without Harm is a global network of more than 470 organizations in 52 countries working to transform the health care sector so it is no longer a source of harm to people and the environment.

Last updated on 18 May 2011

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 »

Members

HEAL has over 65 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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Press: Diana Smith

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