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Media Advisory: COP17 Press Conf. on Health Leaders Call for Urgent Action on Climate

International health leaders in Durban for the global climate talks have called on negotiators to push for the most ambitious commitments possible, warning that the direction of current negotiations risks the lives of billions of people around the globe.

A Press Conference was held on these health leaders’ call for urgent action on climate.

When and Where: Tuesday December 6, 11-11:30am - Kosi Palm, ICC, Durban, South Africa

Who and What: Some of the world’s most prominent health organizations, including global doctors, nurses, medical students and public health federations, the World Health Organization and others partnered to organize the First Global Climate and Health Summit, which took place Sunday, December 4 at the Tropicana Hotel in Durban.

The more than 200 health leaders issued a Declaration and Call to Action that:

  • Warns of grave health consequences if the world cannot agree on major emissions reductions.
  • Asserts that a fair, binding and ambitious climate agreement will result in significant health benefits worldwide—saving lives and money.
  • Commits the health sector to lead by example in reducing its own carbon footprint while advocating for healthy solutions to climate change.
  • Calls on negotiators to protect public health with an ambitious, equitable agreement that transitions the world away from fossil fuels and toward a low carbon development path.

Press Conference Speakers:

  • Dr. Hugh Montgomery, Climate and Health Council, UK
  • Dr. Rajen Naidoo, Nelson Mandela Medical School, UKZN, Durban
  • Professor Sir Andy Haines, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Dr. Dong Chun Shin, World Medical Association
  • Diarmid Campbell Lendrum, World Health Organization

Photo Opportunity: Health leaders take the temperature of a giant globe and find that if there is not an immediate intervention, temperatures will surpass 2 degrees Celsius, endangering the health of billions of human beings.

Spokespeople Available in Multiple Languages: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean

View Press Release here.


Key Quotes

  • "Climate Change poses an immediate and grave threat to human health and survival worldwide. Many are already affected. Emissions are rising steeply. Action is needed now- not ’later’."
    - Dr. Hugh Montgomery, Climate and Health Council, UK and part of HEAL’s COP167 delegation (
  • "Climate change presents as one of the most important threats to the gains in public health made since the advent of democracy in South Africa. The vulnerable and marginalised such as the elderly, ill, pregnant women, children and rural poor are at greatest risk. Programmes of mitigation and adaptation must include health."
    Dr. Rajen Naidoo, Nelson R. Mandela Medical School, UKZN, Durban (; in Durban 08-2437-9333)
  • “Without bold action by governments climate change will magnify existing health crises, deepening and broadening the global burden of disease. The greatest burden will fall on those living in poor countries, who have contributed least to greenhouse gas emissions.”
    - Peter Orris, MD, MPH, Professor, University of Illinois School of Public Health and Chair Environmental Working Group of World Federation of Public Health Associations
  • "Climate change represents a major threat as well as a significant opportunity for human health. Unmitigated climate change is having serious and increasing effects on the health of millions of people around the world. However effective action to cut emissions will not only reduce climate risk, it can bring substantial and immediate health benefits for individuals and populations."
    - Fiona Armstrong, Climate and Health Alliance, Australia (; in Austrailia +6 143 890 0005)
  • "A Climate win is a Health win. By working together across sectors promoting the co-benefits on climate, health and equity of sustainable development, sustainable production and consumption and waste reduction we can create a climate for Health"
    - Cristina Tirado, Director of the PHI Center for Public and Climate Change (; in USA +1 202 297 0106)
  • “Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing the world today and with increases in temperatures, changes in precipitation and sea levels, extreme weather events will lead to substantially increased death and disease. The effects of climate change will put increasing pressure on already challenged and fragile health systems and it is imperative that countries, governments, organizations and individuals take all necessary steps to mitigate climate change and to help prepare for and prevent the serious health and environmental consequences of climate change.”
    - Janet Robinson, FHI360 (; in Thailand +66 81 804 4912)
  • "Just as our thoughtless actions can harm our planet so can we make a positive and planned contribution to its recovery. If we all do our part we can collectively secure the health of future generations."
    - David C. Benton, Chief Executive Officer, International Council of Nurses
  • "Strong climate policy represents a major investment in people’s health. The EU has recognised the benefits for lung and heart health, which has helped to put health in the climate agenda in Europe. But in the midst of austerity associated with the Eurocrisis and with greenhouse gas emissions continuing to rise, isn’t it time for the EU to commit to an emission reduction target in Durban that would boost health protection, reduce health care bills and make Europeans proud?"
    - Genon Jensen, Executive Director, Health and Environment Alliance (; in Belgium +32 2 234 3640)
  • If the world’s governments agree to delay action for the rest of this decade—which it appears they might—history will judge Durban as a moment of global political malpractice of criminal proportions. It would be the equivalent of diagnosing a patient with lung cancer and then telling them it’s ok to continue smoking for nine more years. The health of billions of people is at stake.”
    - Joshua Karliner, Health Care Without Harm (; in Durban 08-221-35147)
  • "I’m a 21 year old medical student, and these negotiations have been carrying on my entire life. If we don’t reach a legally binding agreement on climate change soon, the protection and promotion of public health will be seriously undermined, world-wide."
    - Nick Watts, International Federation of Medical Students Associations (; in Durban 07-4179-1197)

Last updated on 7 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 »


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