An open letter to the WHO Director General

In May 2013 a group of Alliance members wrote an open letter to Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organisation, to highlight their concerns regarding the health impacts of climate change and to bring the Doha Declaration on Climate, Health and Wellbeing to her direct attention.

14 May 2013

Dr Margaret Chan
Director-General
World Health Organisation

Dear Dr Chan,

As health organisations representing health and health-promotion professionals and health care institutions from around the world, we are writing to you to highlight the urgent concerns of the health and medical professionals and health care workers in relation to the health risks from climate change.

Specifically we would like to alert you to the DOHA Declaration on Climate, Health and Wellbeing, developed during COP 18, the 2012 UNFCCC global climate change negotiations, and signed by over 80 health and medical organisations from 19 countries along with over 1000 individuals.

This Declaration expressed the desire of health and medical organisations around the world for the protection and promotion of health to be made one of the central priorities of global and national policy responses to climate change, and their willingness to engage to make this happen.

The Declaration and its list of signatories (attached) called for:

  • The health impacts of climate change to be taken into account domestically and globally

  • Investment in climate mitigation and adaptation to be significantly increased on a rapid timescale

  • The health sector and the community to be engaged and informed on climate action

It also states:

“Human health is profoundly threatened by our global failure to halt emissions growth and curb climate change. As representatives of health communities around the world, we argue that strategies to achieve rapid and sustained emissions reductions and protect health must be implemented in a time frame to avert further loss and damage. We recognise that this will require exceptional courage and leadership from our political, business and civil society leaders, including the health sector; acceptance from the global community about the threats to health posed by our current path; and a willingness to act to realise the many benefits of creating low carbon, healthy, sustainable and resilient societies.”

We urge you to raise this issue as a matter of the highest priority in the World Health Organization, and to work with the signatories to this letter to help ensure the health implications of climate change and the opportunities to improve health through emissions reductions are understood and realised by effective action in all WHO member states. For example, the co-benefits of tackling both non-communicable diseases (a major focus of the World Health Assembly this month) and climate change are increasingly well known, and benefit both people and planet.

Given the urgency of the situation, we would be very grateful if you could share the Doha Declaration with others members of the Executive Board during your meeting on May 29-30 as an important contribution from the health sector.

We would be pleased to discuss how we can work closer with WHO global and regional offices and national health ministries to protect and promote global health through climate action.

Yours sincerely,

Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA)
C3 Collaborating for Health
Climate and Health Council (CHC) FHI 360
Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL)
Healthcare Without Harm (HCWH)
International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA)

Contact for correspondence: Fiona Armstrong, Convenor, Climate and Health Alliance, convenor@caha.org.au