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Letter from 46 million health workers delivered to COP26 and COP27 Presidencies

Letter from 46 million health workers delivered to COP26 and COP27 Presidencies
FROM LEFT: Dr Jeni Miller, Executive Director of Global Climate and Health Alliance, Richard Smith, President of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, Gillian Keegan, UK Minister of State for Care and Mental Health, Diarmid-Campbell-Lendrum, WHO’s Climate change and Health lead. Photo: Bianka Csenki for the Global Climate and Health Alliance).

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AN OPEN LETTER signed by 600 organisations, representing 46 million nurses, doctors and health workers worldwide was formally handed over to the presidencies of COP26 and COP27 on Monday morning, November 9.

According to a release, the letter calling for Global Climate Action, was handed over to Gillian Keegan, UK Minister of State for Care and Mental Health; Wendy Morton, UK Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas; and Khaled Abdel Ghaffar – Minister of Higher Education and Minister of Scientific Research of Egypt, representing the presidencies of COP26 and COP27 during COP26 Science and Innovation Day in Glasgow last Monday.

The letter, delivered as COP26 delegates gathered for the Climate Action for Health event, warns that the climate crisis is the single biggest health threat facing humanity and calls on world leaders to deliver on climate action. It was delivered in a blue satchel which also contained the recent Special Report on Climate Change and Health by the World Health Organization (WHO), and was covered in pleas for action from the young people’s forum at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London.

The letter states: “Wherever we deliver care, in our hospitals, clinics and communities around the world, we are already responding to the health harms caused by climate change”.

“Those people and nations who have benefited most from the activities that caused the climate crisis, especially fossil fuel extraction and use, have a great responsibility to do everything possible to help those who are now most at risk.”

Both the letter and the report argue that health and equity must be at the center of climate change response; while the letter calls for action, the report provides the blueprint for delivering climate action that will protect the health of people around the world.

The letter, which was signed by diverse medical organisations and high profile individuals, such as WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; the World Medical Association; the International Council of Nurses;The Lancet medical journal; the International Pediatric Association; the World Organization of Family Doctors; and the FDI World Dental Federation, calls on all governments “to avert the impending health catastrophe by limiting global warming to 1.5°C, and to make human health and equity central to all climate change mitigation and adaptation actions.”

Both the letter and report were carried by bicycle from Geneva to London (850km) by WHO’s climate change and health lead, Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, who handed them over to 70 paediatric healthcare providers from “Ride for their Lives”, who in turn took part in taking the documents the remaining 800km north to Glasgow.

“We are calling on the UK and Egyptian governments to convey the messages contained in this letter to their counterparts around the world from now through to COP27 in Egypt and beyond: health must become the beating heart of climate action”, said Dr Jeni Miller, Executive Director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance. Mark Hayden, a paediatric cardiac intensive care consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, rider and one of the organisers of “Ride for their Lives”, said: “Our young patients are going to suffer from the climate emergency far more than adult patients, whilst bearing the least responsibility for the situation. But we have known how to beat climate change for decades, it’s a question of getting everyone to take the necessary steps. Health professionals can exert influence at many levels, from rallying communities, to challenging governments, to having sensitive conversations with individual patients and their families. That’s why UK children’s hospitals organised “Ride for their Lives”. Governments must read the documents and act now to protect life – there’s no more time”.

The Climate Change Conference, COP26, wraps up today, November 12.

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