The Doha Declaration on Climate, Health and Wellbeing
HEALTH MUST BE CENTRAL TO CLIMATE ACTION
COP18, December 2012
Health and medical organisations from around the world are calling for the protection and promotion of health to be made the one of the central priorities of global and national policy responses to climate change.
The protection of health and welfare is one of the central rationales for reducing emissions in Article One of the UNFCCC. Article Four requires all countries to consider the health implications of climate adaptation and mitigation. Yet health is being overlooked in the development of global, national and local responses to climate change, and its importance undervalued by policymakers, business and the media.
Human health and wellbeing is a basic human right and is fundamentally dependent on stable, functioning ecosystems and a healthy biosphere. These foundations for health are at risk from climate change and ecological degradation.
Health as a driver for mitigation and adaptation
The impact of climate change on health is one of the most significant measures of harm associated with our warming planet. Protecting health is therefore one of the most important motivations for climate action.
Climate change is affecting human health in multiple ways: both direct – through extreme weather events, food and water insecurity and infectious diseases – and indirect: for example through economic instability, migration and as a driver of conflict.
The risks to health from climate change are very large and will affect all populations, but particularly children, women and poorer people and those in developing nations. Urgent and sustained emissions reduction and effective adaptation is needed.
Climate action can deliver many benefits to health worldwide. Reducing fossil fuel consumption simultaneously improves air quality and improves public health. Shifting to cleaner safer renewable energy systems will save millions of lives each year. Moving to more active and public transport systems can improve health through increased physical activity. Reducing intake of meat and dairy products will reduce disease. Improving insulation in homes and building can protect people from extreme temperatures. All of these changes will provide significant savings for health budgets. Climate action that recognises these benefits can improve the health of individuals as well as communities globally; support resilient and sustainable development; and improve global equity.
What we seek from climate action
Recognising health in all climate policies and strengthening health systems globally can advance human rights and create safe, resilient, adaptable, and sustainable communities.
We call for:
· The health sector to be engaged in leading climate mitigation and adaptation worldwide;
· Evaluation of the health benefits of adaptation and mitigation to be evaluated and reflected in all national, regional and global climate decisions;
· Assessment of loss and damage from climate change to include impacts on wellbeing and community resilience, as well as impacts to health care infrastructure and systems;
· Investment in adaptation and mitigation programs that can demonstrate health benefits to be substantially increased;
· National and global education programs to increase public awareness of health effects of climate change and promote health co-benefits of low carbon pathways;
· Funding for programs to support and protect health in vulnerable countries to be significantly increased;
· Health and environmental costs reflected in corporate and national accounts;
· More inclusive consultation processes in global climate negotiations to reflect the views of young people, women and indigenous people;
· Cessation of all fossil fuel subsidies globally; and
· Priority given to decarbonisation of national and global energy supplies.
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 also 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 recognise the many benefits of creating low carbon, healthy, sustainable and resilient societies.
‘You cannot tackle hunger, disease, and poverty unless you can also provide people with a healthy ecosystem’ - Gro Harlem Brundtland
Signatories to the Doha Declaration for Health and Wellbeing:
Climate and Health Alliance
Healthy Planet UK
Climate and Health Council
Health Care Without Harm
C3 Collaborating for Health