Urgent Global Health Appeal to COP28: Accelerate Fossil Fuel Phase-Out for Public Well-being
Nov 1, 2023
On the occasion of the first ever health day at COP, an open letter from health professionals around the world urges the COP28 presidency and world leadership for a commitment to an expedited phase-out of fossil fuels and an investment in a renewable energy transition to ensure the health of all.
The letter, supported by organizations representing 46.3 million health professionals, emphasizes the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels, invest in clean energy technology, and reduce air pollution to protect public health.
The climate crisis is not just an environmental issue; it’s a public health crisis that threatens the fundamentals of human life. The World Health Organization recognizes climate change as the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century, emphasizing the inseparable connection between a safe and stable climate and achieving health and well-being for all. Communities, health workers, and health systems worldwide are already experiencing the severe impacts of climate change, with extreme weather events, food and water insecurity, and displacement becoming more frequent and devastating.
One of the major drivers of climate change and air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuel combustion, particularly diesel and coal, is responsible for millions of deaths annually due to air pollution. Despite its well-documented consequences, 99% of the world’s population lives in areas where air quality breaches the World Health Organization’s guidelines, and air pollution’s economic costs are staggering, totaling over $8.1 trillion in 2019.
Beyond air pollution, toxic discharges from downstream fossil fuel industries like petrochemicals, plastics, and pesticides also pose severe health and environmental risks. Communities near these facilities suffer from adverse health impacts, including cancer, endocrine disorders, and birth defects.
The key highlights of the letter include the call to end our dependence on fossil fuels to safeguard future generations and save lives, the importance of a rapid transition to clean energy for clean air, water, and a healthy environment, and the rejection of unreliable solutions like Carbon Capture and Storage in favor of renewable energy. It also underscores the need for a just energy transition that prioritizes health and community well-being, ending fossil fuel subsidies, and preventing the fossil fuel industry from influencing climate negotiations. It categorically states that without ambitious climate action, healthcare systems and workers will bear insurmountable burdens, undermining prospects for a safe, fair, and just future in the face of climate change.