COP 20 Diary: Health Saturday

Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe's Climate Policy and Membership Officer Kornelia Bagi is in Lima, Peru for the UN Climate Conference (COP 20). Read Part I of her COP 20 Diary below. Parts II and III are also now available.

6 December 2014

Health Saturday at COP 20

The third Global Climate and Health Summit took place on Saturday 6 December in downtown Lima as a side event to the UNFCCC negotiations. The event organised by the Global Climate and Health Alliance (a global coalition working to tackle climate change and to protect and promote public health, of which HCWH is a founding member) attracted about 300 participants who were interested to hear about the very complex threat that climate change poses to public health.  

Investing in health

The event provided a good opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues from the impact of air pollution, the role of cities in combating climate and health problems and how the medical community can reduce its emissions.

The healthcare sector has a long history of driving transformational change, for example in terms of mercury thermometers and blood pressure devices, and should play a leading role in combating climate change. 

One possible course of action is to divest from fossil fuels. We have seen a few good examples – including the recent decision by the British Medical Association to end its investment in fossil fuels – but there is still room for improvement. The first ever Global Divestment Day will take place on 13 February 2015. By joining this initiative the health sector would show leadership and also help raise the profile of divestment as a key tool in moving towards clean energy. 

Speaking of clean energy, the health sector has already come a long way in reducing its carbon footprint by investing in renewables and energy efficiency. If you would like to learn more about best practices from Germany and the UK, sign up for our upcoming (and free) webinar on Clean Energy Strategies for Hospitals on December 17th

Educate and advocate 

As was reiterated during the meeting, climate change is not a scientific mystery; we know the extent, the effects, the courses and have a pretty good idea about what to expect in the next few decades. It is neither an economic matter nor a technology issue, but an educational challenge. Climate change action has a limited impact on economic growth but inaction will likely have severe consequences. And that’s why the health sector has the moral obligation to act by educating the public and also by standing up to policy makers. And that’s exactly what the future generation of health professionals have just done. 

During the conference a delegate from Brazil announced that they have suggested noting health co-benefits of mitigation policies in the draft text of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), notably in Articles 30 (a) and 31 (d). The same text proposal was submitted by Australia and Canada. This subsequently received support from the US, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia as a result of the hard work of the delegation of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA).  As representatives of the global medical profession of the future, they advocate for the greater inclusion of health within the UNFCCC negotiations.

Coming up next

On Monday 8 December, health remains high on the agenda as the WHO side event on ‘Protecting Health, Fighting Climate Change’ is to take place in the afternoon (Lima time). Find out about this event and other health-related developments in the next COP 20 Diary post. 

– Kornelia Bagi, Climate Policy and Membership Officer, HCWH Europe

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