• Africa Director Pandemic Action Network Aggrey Aluso said ending fossil fuel dependence is a prerequisite for a healthier world.
• Last year’s COP27 saw a record number of representatives for the oil and gas industry in attendance and this year the number is expected to be higher.
The global health community has united to demand an end to fossil fuel dependency at COP 28 later this month.
Fossil fuel is a natural fuel such as coal or gas, formed in the geological past from the remains of living organisms.
The health community wrote an open letter to COP 28 President-Designate Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber.
In the letter, they demanded that countries commit to an accelerated, just and equitable phase-out of fossil fuels as the decisive path to health for all at the annual UN climate conference.
For the first time in the history of climate talks, there will be an entire day dedicated to health.
This will provide an opportunity to address the direct health impacts of climate change on individual well-being and healthcare systems.
The letter is supported by organisations that represent 46.3 million health professionals including the World Medical Association, World Federation of Public Health Association and International Council of Nurses.
It is also endorsed by leading medical journals such as the British Medical Journal.
Africa Director Pandemic Action Network Aggrey Aluso said ending fossil fuel dependence is a prerequisite for a healthier world.
"The climate change effects are choking our people and our planet, and on top of this, disease outbreaks will become more frequent increasing the risk of emerging pandemic threats. We must take action now to prevent pandemics from taking hold, and part of addressing the root cause is reducing carbon emissions through an accelerated, fair, and just transition,” he said.
The letter outlines the critical need to protect human health by reducing dependence on fossil fuels, rapidly investing in clean energy technology and reducing air pollution.
President World Medical Association Lujain Alqodmani said they fully support the letter.
Alqodmani said they are already seeing the impacts of the climate crisis on health heat stress, malnutrition, anxiety, vector-borne diseases, and respiratory illnesses due to dirty air to name a few.
"Extreme weather events have another far-reaching impact on hospitals and healthcare centres that are meant to provide cure and relief. They are often first in the line of fire, with access and infrastructure getting hit. Our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels will only aggravate this further. This is why we think that a rapid transition to clean and equitable forms of energy is a win-win on all fronts," he said.
A key demand of the letter is that fossil fuel industry representatives be excluded from climate negotiations.
Last year’s COP27 saw a record number of representatives for the oil and gas industry in attendance and this year the number is expected to be higher.
President International Council of Nurses Pam Cipriano said when disaster strikes, hospitals and health care centres are often at the forefront.
He said they are also the epicenter of addressing the escalating and noxious effects of climate change that are robbing people of their health.
"We are seeing more people come into our health care centres, hospitals and clinics complaining of heat exhaustion, respiratory issues and allergies, secondhand smoke exposure among other things. We firmly believe that COP28 is an opportunity to adopt unified solutions and take action to implement mitigation and adaptation policies that also protect our health," Cipriano said.
"This means phasing out dirty energy like coal, oil and gas that have negative impacts on health and the environment and prioritising clean energy sources. We must invest in a healthy and climate-safe future. The time to act on this is now."
It was coordinated by Health Care Without Harm and Global Climate and Health Alliance on behalf of the climate and health community.
Executive Director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance Around the world Jeni Miller said people are being displaced, suffering and dying due to warming temperatures.