2021 - WHO conference post

Health and climate experts warn of climate-related health crisis

Mon, 08 Nov 2021 10:14:00 GMT
At the conference the key speakers had their pictures taken in front of a giant ‘pollution pod’ that mimics the air quality of the future (2040).
At the conference the key speakers had their pictures taken in front of a giant ‘pollution pod’ that mimics the air quality of the future (2040).

Health professionals and climate experts from around the world called for urgent action to tackle the growing climate-related health crisis, during the Global Conference on Health and Climate Change at Glasgow Caledonian University alongside the COP26 UN climate change conference.

Climate change already adversely impacts the lives and health of billions of people, and will increasingly do so over the next decades. Indeed, climate change affects the most basic health requirements including clean air, safe water, sufficient food and adequate shelter. It also poses new challenges to the control of infectious diseases, and gradually increases the pressure on the natural, economic and social systems that sustain health.

Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of Wellcome Trust said: "We are used to talking about climate as an environmental challenge, an economic challenge, an equity challenge. But it is also one of the most urgent health challenges facing us all today. We can rise to tackle it together, but only through concerted, global action. If we can forge an inclusive climate and health movement that links charities, researchers and decision makers across the world, we will be able to create a healthy sustainable future, for generations to come."

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) said, “We have come together to highlight the unprecedented threat that climate change poses to human health and to raise the collective voice of health professionals in Glasgow and around the world”. He continued, “Climate change is a global challenge, and the only way to address it is with a united front, working in partnership with many interlinking sectors, including energy, food systems, transport, finance, and others.” 

Professor Tahseen Jafry, Director of GCU’s Centre for Climate Justice, said, “The impact of climate change on people’s mental health is an enormous problem that we need to face up to. The emotional impact of losing your home, livelihood, family members and friends, together with uncertainty on what the future holds, needs immediate attention and investment.”

“Health must become the beating heart of climate action”, said Dr Jeni Miller, Executive Director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance. “Political leaders must prioritise health and social equity, emission reduction and impact mitigation over politics, profit and unproven technological fixes. The decisions made during COP26 will define the health and wellbeing of people all over the world for decades to come”.

In October, more than 550 organisations representing 46 million nurses, doctors and health professionals worldwide – about two thirds of the global health workforce – signed an open letter to the 197 government leaders and national delegations ahead of COP26, warning that the climate crisis is the single biggest health threat facing humanity, and calling on world leaders to deliver on climate action.

The letter’s publication coincides with the release of a Special Report on Climate Change and Health by WHO in global consultation with the health community, which argues that countries can only ensure a long-term recovery from the pandemic by implementing ambitious climate commitments. The report delivers ten high-level recommendations, backed up by action points, resources and case studies, including the need to place health and social justice at the heart of the UN climate talks.

The Global Conference on Health & Climate Change was organised by the World Health Organization WHO and the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA), in close collaboration with the Glasgow Caledonian University and its Centre for Climate Justice, the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, the Centre on Climate Change and Planetary Health of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the Wellcome Trust.

Speakers during the conference included Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland and Chair of The Elders; Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of Wellcome Trust; Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General (pre-recorded video), Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council, Dr Jeni Miller, Executive Director of Global Climate and Health Alliance, Professor Tahseen Jafry, Director of GCU’s Centre for Climate Justice, Admiral Rachel Levine of US Health & Human Service; Dr Nick Watts, Chief Sustainability Officer, NHS.

Find out more about GCU's COP26 activity -  www.gcu.ac.uk/cop26