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By Genon K. Jensen 

Yesterday, a sixteen head strong high-level HEAL delegation traveled to COP23, the UN Climate Change Conference 2017, taking place from 6-17 November in Bonn, Germany. We aim to bring the added benefit of a health angle to the climate negotiations, and attend, organise and present at events dedicated to the connection of health and climate as well as advocate for a firm renewed commitment to the Paris Agreement.

Tackling climate change has never been more urgent. Leading up to the COP21 in Paris I wrote a prescription to world leaders on what needed to be done for meaningful climate action that benefits the health of the world’s citizens. And while the COP21 resulted in the historic Paris Agreement, climate and health action doesn’t end here but instead needs to accelerate to reach the climate goals of 2015.

Climate change is more than an environmental challenge – it is a major threat that affects health, wellbeing and human rights, and disproportionately impacts those most vulnerable, such as children, and the poor. In turn, this means climate action presents incredible opportunities for our health: decarbonising our societies and way of life – be it in transport, buildings, energy or food systems – is entirely possible and will make this world a healthier, increasingly prosperous and more sustainable place.

Health professionals all over the world are already engaged on limiting global warming and air pollution and making sure that we reap the many benefits to health that come with ambitious climate action. Here are just a few examples in which HEAL is involved:

  • Global Climate and Health Alliance: this alliance was co-founded by HEAL and brings together health professionals from all continents to tackle climate change and protect and promote public health
  • Unmask my city: HEAL helped contribute to the development of this global health-led initiative which aims to improve air quality in cities to reach WHO recommended levels by 2030 and uses monitoring and innovative visual tools to educate the public and policy-makers about air pollution with launches in Londen, Istanbul, Chennai and Sao Paulo.
  • Healthy Energy Initiative: HEAL is the European partner of this global collaboration of health professionals, health organiszations, and health researchers engages in science-based advocacy for a move away from fossil fuel-based power generation—particularly coal—and towards clean, renewable, healthy energy options
  • The World Medical Association, the World Federation of Public Health Associations, European Respiratory Society (ERS) and other professional networks have also spoken out. For some health initiatives to end coal specifically please see pages 15-17 here:…
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has also been instrumental in bringing climate and health issues to the attention of COP delegates and the public, and were one of the first to speak out. WHO also runs the BreatheLife campaign, working closely with Unmask my city. ,
  • Healthcare without Harm: Health Care Call to Action on Climate Change…

Our aim is to push for a continuously strong commitment to the Paris Agreement and meaningful steps in order to implement it. A crucial part of this strategy is to highlight the adverse health effects of the energy choices we have made and more importantly, will make in the future. HEAL has repeatedly pointed out how poor energy choices lead to significant health problems and that these choices are even supported with public money and in turn create incredible amounts of additional healthcare costs.

HEAL has also shown that there are alternatives available that point towards a cleaner, brighter and healthier energy future. Implementing the Paris Agreement has to mean that we finally get rid of our addiction to fossil fuels and their funding with public money to finally put renewables and energy savings first.

Where to find HEAL at COP23:

  • Follow HEAL on Facebook and Twitter (@HealthandEnv)
  • 11 November: HEAL acts as the local implementing partner of the Global Climate and Health Summit, organised by the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA) and the World Health Organization (WHO)
  • 12 November: HEAL organises a network meeting with German health professionals and medical students. HEAL will also be present at the WHO high-level event on Health Actions for the Implementation of the Paris Agreement.
  • 13 November: HEAL will participate as a speaker in the ‘Climate Change, Air Pollution, and Health – Maximizing Benefits in Cities’ event organised by the WHO, Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), and Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI)

We thank the members of the HEAL delegation:

  • Jeni Miller, Global Climate and Health Alliance
  • Dr. Kayihan Pala, Turkish Medical Association
  • Dr. Gamze Varol Saracoglu, Namik Kemal University, Turkey
  • Winfried Zacher, retired doctor and member of the NGO Germanwatch
  • Florian Drueke, public health student, member of the German network of critical health professionals
  • Eva Abbing, medical student, member of the German network of critical health professionals
  • Oleksandr Kuzura, Bosnian coal organisation Centar za Ekologiju i Energiju in Tuzla
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