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The Lancet Countdown team has published its 2022 report, tracking the relationship between health and climate change across five key domains and 43 indicators.

“It shows that the world is at a critical juncture: While a renewed overreliance on fossil fuels could lock in a fatally warmer future with exacerbated health impacts, a health-centred, low-carbon response offers a renewed opportunity to deliver a future in which world populations can not only survive, but thrive.”

The report centres around three key messages: 

A persistent fossil fuel addiction is amplifying the health impacts of climate change, and compounding  the concurrent energy, cost-of-living,  food, and COVID-19 crises we face.

Climate change is exacerbating food insecurity, health impacts from extreme heat, the risk of infectious disease outbreaks, and life-threatening extreme weather events.

The delay in the adoption of clean energies has left households dependent on dirty fuels, vulnerable to energy poverty, and exposed to dangerous levels of fuel-derived air pollution.

These impacts are compounding with today’s multiple, concurrent crises.

Governments and companies continue to prioritise the fossil fuels above, and to the detriment, of peoples’ health, jeopardising a liveable future.

Governments continue to subsidise fossil fuels to a sum of hundreds of billions of dollars annually –for sums comparable to their total health budgets. Meanwhile, a profound lack of funding undermines a just transition towards affordable, healthy, zero-carbon energy.

Meanwhile, fossil fuel companies are pursuing plans which would lead to emissions vastly exceeding Paris Agreement goals – if fulfilled, their strategies could lock the world into a fatally warmer future.

The world faces a critical juncture. A health-centred, aligned  response to the compounding crises can still deliver a future where people can not only survive, but thrive.

As countries device responses to the compounding crises, a renewed dependence on fossil fuels could lock-in a fatally warmer future.

However, in their response lies a new opportunity. Decision makers can today still deliver more resilient energy systems, saving at least 1.2 million lives from cleaner air, 11.5 million lives from healthier diets, reducing energy poverty, and delivering healthier, more liveable cities.

The just transition to a healthy future can no longer be delayed.

HEAL, our member EPHA and others issued specific recommendations for EU policy-makers, as they’re implementing EU Green Deal commitments to move the bloc towards carbon neutrality and zero pollution. 

These include: 

  1. Develop national food strategies and plans supporting the transformation of food production, manufacturing, retail, service, and distribution systems to cut GHG emissions across Europe, whilst protecting the planet’s soils, biodiversity, air, water, and public health. 
  2. By 2030 at the latest, fully align EU air quality standards (which are legally binding at national level) with the updated World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Air Quality Guidelines, including of 5 μg/m (annual mean) for fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) and the latest scientific evidence on the health effects of air pollution.
  3. Increase national efforts to de-carbonise healthcare services towards net zero emissions by improving energy efficiency, regulating the procurement and greening the lifecycle of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, developing waste management systems, and investing in research in sustainability and patient safe healthcare.
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