Health at the New York Climate Summit

 

 

Taking place from the 21st-27th September, Climate Week 2014 will see 122 heads of state converge upon New York for a climate summit convened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on September 23rd.  The week will also see many health leaders speak out about the significant threats to health posed by unmitigated climate change, and the clear health benefits of many climate solutions, and civil society actions including a Climate March in New York.

The Civil Society event we are co-hosting with the Public Health Institute, the American College of Sports Medicine and the Univerity of Madison-Wisconsin, for example, has a confirmed line-up of very high profile speakers including US Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, EPA Chief Gina McCarthy and Dr. Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet.

 

We have put together a resource kit, which is downloadable here and contains a number of recent blogs and articles, videos, graphics and sample tweets for you to use, as well as a list of health-related events taking place during Climate Week in New York.  It also includes our key messages for health which are listed below.

 

Key messages and implications of the Climate Summit for human health

 

Climate change is fast becoming a mainstream public health concern

The World Health Organization’s Conference on Health and Climate in August sought to raise the profile of this crucial public health issue before the UN summit in New York, and COP20 in Lima this December. Following the conference, WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan has written an article calling for urgent action to protect health from climate change: “the defining issue for the 21st century’. Dr Chan states that “climate change, and all of its dire consequences for health, should be at centre-stage… whenever talk turns to the future of human civilizations. After all, that's what's at stake.”

 

Clean energy and active transport can save lives, carbon and money

Dramatic health benefits and associated cost savings would result from a global transition to clean energy, avoiding millions of early deaths each year through improved air quality. As highlighted by the ActiveEarth initiative, which will be launched at the civil society event, active transportation also offers significant physical and mental health benefits, as well as reducing air pollution. The major cost savings associated with these health benefits mean that smart climate policies need not harm economies, as discussed by the New Climate Economy report, ‘Better Growth, Better Climate’.

 

We need to make investment choices which benefit health

One area which has become the subject of much discussion within the health community worldwide in recent months is the role of healthy investments in building a sustainable future which promoted health. In June, members of the British Medical Association voted in favour of an end to its investments in fossil fuels and increased investment in clean energy, and last week, HESTA (the Health Employees’ Superannuation Trust Australia) announced a restriction on investments in thermal coal.

A number of health NGOs, coordinated by the Global Climate and Health Alliance, released a call to action at the recent WHO Conference on Health and Climate, emphasising the need for health organisations to consider the climate and health impacts of their investments, and make investment choices that benefit both by reducing local air pollution, helping to build low-carbon health systems, and strengthening community resilience.