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Durban climate outcomes and health gains

The COP17 climate change negotiations brought together an unprecedented global health coalition and a Durban Climate and Health Declaration was adopted in a parallel Climate and Health Summit that sent a resounding message to UNFCCC negotiators.

The Climate and Health Declaration highlights that urgent replacement of fossil fuel-based energy with clean renewable energy is vital, as fossil fuels cause "immense harm" to both climate and health and urges governments to adopt an ambitious, fair and binding treaty by 2015, and to commit to equitable contributions to a green climate fund to assist adaptation and mitigation strategies to support human health.

Although the final outcomes agreed by governments in Durban lack the response needed to address the magnitude and urgency of the climate challenge, the Roadmap does provide a formal recognition that current pledges for emission reductions are inadequate and need to be corrected. The Roadmap, proposed by the EU, and agreed by the 195 Parties to the UN climate change convention, commits governments to draw up a legally binding framework to reduce emissions by 2015, that would enter into force by 2020. The increased profile of health and health leaders at the COP negotiations, and in the parallel Climate and Health Summit, which HEAL and other partners have worked to build up over the past years, have certainly supported these outcomes.

HEAL congratulates the EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard who is seen by many as central in salvaging the Durban talks and the Kyoto Protocol, and in mobilising a coalition of small island nations and least developing countries to help secure the Durban agreement. She has been a strong supporter of integrating health into climate talks within EU and will be critical for moving forward EU climate policies in the coming months as well as internationally.

Dr Maria Neira, from the WHO, issued a Global Health Alert during a press conference and highlighted the important role of advocacy by the health community in bringing health on the climate agenda. Despite the shortcomings on climate action from Durban, HEAL and other partners in the global health community will move forward using two new organising and education tools, the Durban Declaration on Climate and Health and the Health Sector Call to Action, which were adopted at the close of the first Climate and Health Summit, and call on negotiators to push for the most ambitious commitments possible.

In the Health Sector Call to Action, healthcare providers, professionals and health organizations commit to action themselves to cut emissions in the health sector, and have urged health professionals worldwide to engage in advocacy for climate action, to help prevent unprecedented loss of life and human suffering.

In the Durban Declaration on Climate and Health, Summit participants call on COP 17 negotiators to, inter alia: recognize the health benefits of climate mitigation and take bold and substantive action to reduce global GHG emissions in order to protect and promote public health; ensure greater health sector representation on national delegations and in key bodies of the UNFCCC; adopt a strong second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol; and negotiate, by 2015, a fair, ambitious and binding agreement that is consistent with the prescription for a Healthy Planet endorsed by over 130 health organizations in Copenhagen in 2009.

The Climate and Health Summit was co-organized by the Climate & Health Council, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) and the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine at the University of KwaZulu Natal, in partnership with the Health & Environment Alliance (HEAL), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Medical Association, and the International Council of Nurses, among others, and brought over 250 health leaders from 30 countries. Active health representation at the UNFCCC COP 17 talks included HEAL, HCWH, the International Federation of Medical Students (IFMSA), World Medical Association, World Federation of Public Health Associations, Climate and Health Council and the WHO featured over a dozen side events, reports and briefings on health and climate.

Last updated on 16 December 2011

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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 »


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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