Doctors for Extinction Rebellion
Dear Dr Tedros,
We are very honoured to meet you in person. Thank you for considering our appeal, an appeal made to all Ministers of Health and their representatives of the Member states at the 74th World Health Assembly.
This is an initiative of Doctors4XR supported by the Global Climate Health Alliance, the Global Strategic Climate Communications and many other movements.
Already at the COP21, the WHO alerted the world “Climate change is the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century”.
As frontline health workers, we are confronted every day with the consequences of environmental deterioration on the health of our patients and communities. We see:
– respiratory and cardiovascular diseases due to air pollution
– lost work days and deaths due to heat waves
– over- and under-nutrition due to lack of quality food
– diarrhoea and poisoning due to polluted drinking water
– and also psychologic distress due to natural disasters and loss of hope.
Unfortunately, health professionals are not listened to, nor are scientists in general.
Global warming is not only an existential threat for future generations, but a reality NOW. This is especially dramatic in tropical countries where malnutrition is again on the rise.
Despite accumulating evidence and repeated warnings from climate scientists, despite more frequent and severe natural disasters, including the Covid-19 pandemic – the concrete actions implemented by our governments are far from sufficient in view of the urgency of the situation.
In the face of inertia, inaction and the abysmal gap between speeches and actions, we, the health professionals, demand
– that the health authorities in each country publicly declare that climate change is putting people at risk of death.
We demand: – that the health authorities act now to preserve life.
You, health authorities of the member states, are responsible for making climate change and biodiversity loss the number one public health issue.
You, the health authorities of the member states, are responsible for rapidly restoring a safer climate and ensuring the best possible protection for all, especially the most vulnerable.
You, the health authorities of the member states, are responsible for forcing your governments to comply, at a minimum, with the Paris agreements.
You, the health authorities of the member states, are responsible for acting in your field, the field of health.
– Give priority to prevention and health promotion
– Promote a more sober, more human and more equitable medicine
– Develop environmentally friendly medical practices and health infrastructures
– And also involve the population and patients in strategic choices
Dr Tedros, we ask you to relay our concerns and determination to the ministers and representatives of member states attending the World Health Assembly.
We ask the WHO to be the driving force and guarantor of public policies that respect the health of all and preserve life.
The urgency must be clearly declared and proposals for implementation developed, both this week and at the G7 summit in the UK in June. As health professionals, you, and we, are responsible for the health of our populations. That is why we must act, now.
Thank you for your warm welcome. We wish you a fruitful World Health Assembly, especially on the burning issue of climate and health.
We count on you!
Prof. Richard Horton
Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet
I am honoured to join you and stand in solidarity with all health workers for Extinction Rebellion and the World Health Organisation at a moment of unparalleled global crisis.
An acute crisis: a global pandemic.
But also an acute-on-chronic crisis: a syndemic, a synthesis of epidemics.
Yes, a coronavirus.
But a coronavirus that has brought untold human carnage because of pre-existing poor population health, devastating and increasing inequalities, and environmental and social destruction that has created the conditions for new pathogenic viruses and variants to exert their lethal effects.
Already we see the beginnings of western complacency.
The tragically mistaken view that this pandemic will soon be defeated.
The shocking disparity in vaccine access means that the pandemic will endure and threaten us for several more years to come.
And there is a lesson here as we confront this environmental emergency, this climate crisis, before us.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that those countries which took early and decisive action protected the health and welfare of their citizens more successfully than those who delayed.
The costs of inaction can be counted in the preventable deaths of millions of people.
The costs of inaction can be measured in the scarred economies of the countries that hesitated.
The costs of inaction can be seen in the shadow cast over the futures of children and young people worldwide.
The Lancet’s Countdown on Health and Climate Change has documented sharp increases in heat-related mortality, higher risks of infectious disease transmission, and rising food and water insecurity.
But the climate crisis is not merely a threat to health.
It is a threat to life itself—all life.
The intricate, delicate, and interdependent connections across the living world.
WHO was the first to warn the world about the coronavirus pandemic in January last year.
Most Presidents and Prime Ministers ignored WHO’s warning—to their cost.
But that lesson of the dangers of delay is slowly being learned.
The climate emergency is a more far-reaching Public Health Emergency of International Concern than COVID-19.
It’s now time to accelerate action towards decarbonisation, to accelerate progress towards less polluted and obesogenic environments, and to accelerate commitments to education, employment, and social care.
All in order to create the conditions for real pandemic and syndemic preparedness.
In one word—equity.
Dr James Hospedales
Founder of EarthMedic and EarthNurse Foundation for planetary health, and former Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency.
Thank you. This is a joint statement from myself and Dr. David Johnson; Chief Medical Officer of Dominica, who could not join us, but sends his support.
We thank Doctors for Extinction Rebellion Switzerland who made this happen today. Your courage, and that of climate activists everywhere, is inspiring.
We in the Caribbean witness first-hand the tragic impacts of just 10C warming, including a wild hurricane season which destroyed lives, homes, health facilities, and health determinants such as water and food supplies. Service disruption to people with noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) drives excess deaths beyond a storm’s direct impact. The NCDs themselves flourish in a world not designed for walking or bicycling, and too often promoting high-carbon, unhealthy food to citizens.
Because of this, climate change is the imperative of SIDS/Caribbean, to meet the 2030 SDGs, and not continue to be caught by catastrophe.
For example, following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria on September 18, 2017, which destroyed 225% of their GDP, Dominica embarked on a journey to become the first climate resilient country, outlined in the National Resilience Development Strategy 2030, anchored in 5 Ps: People, Planet, Peace, Prosperity and Partnership. Dominica has since established, by law, the Climate Resilience Execution Agency of Dominica (CREAD).
Health professionals worldwide need to awaken to the climate and health crisis and act. Indeed, it is the actions of DXR that partly inspired the establishment of EarthMedic and EarthNurse, of which Dr David Johnson is also a director, to mobilise health professionals to act on the climate crisis.
We congratulate the DG/WHO for naming climate change as the public health threat of the 21st Century. Just as with COVID, early, decisive, evidence-informed action saves lives and livelihoods.
We call upon DG and Ministers at WHA74 to REAFFIRM that climate change is a health emergency and to make the consequences of climate change and reducing biodiversity loss the number one public health issue, IN ACTION AS WELL AS WORD.
The new health goals must be to rapidly restore a safer climate – a pre-requisite to human health and well-being – and to protect all people and species, especially the most vulnerable.
We have learned much in disaster and emergency management in the Caribbean and invite you to share and learn at our conference on Climate Change and Health in SIDS: Focus on the Caribbean, Oct 5-8.
For climate action at scale in the region, we need systems of financing based on a vulnerability index for SIDS, not just on per capita income. But perhaps above all, we need top-down honesty about the scale of the climate problem we face, and support for bottom-up movements like the ones we see here today.
We implore you Dr Tedros to take inspiration from this.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,
WHO Director General
My dear colleagues and friends,
Good afternoon and welcome to WHO!
Thank you for coming, and thank you so much for your support.
Your passion is contagious – in a good way.
Thank you for your unwavering dedication to caring for people here in Switzerland and around the world, and to speaking up for the most vulnerable.
I also want to thank you for your service over the past 18 months – the world has come to a new appreciation for who health workers and what you do.
As you might now, WHO has designated 2021 as the Year of Health and Care Workers.
I invite you to join our campaign, calling for countries to invest in health workers and to strengthen health systems everywhere.
I have read your petition urging health authorities to “act now for life”, to recognize climate change as a health emergency;
To make the restoration of our environment a priority public health issue;
And to create health systems that care for both people and the planet.
We couldn’t agree more. The COVID-19 pandemic has once again highlighted the intimate relationship between the health of people and planet.
We depend on our planet for the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink.
The pandemic has shown the world what it means to face a global threat. It has also showed us what happens when we are under-prepared and fail to cooperate with each other.
The risks posed by climate change could dwarf that of any single disease.
The pandemic will end, but there is no vaccine for climate change.
We have to act now, in solidarity, to prevent and prepare before it is too late.
In 2019 we established the WHO-civil society working group on climate change and health, which has been a forum for open and frank conversation on what needs to happen.
We invite you to join that working group and work with us to foster ideas and drive change.
The pandemic has also provided a unique opportunity for building forward better, greener, and more socially just societies.
It is encouraging to know that WHO has the support of so many health workers around the world in calling for a healthy, green recovery from COVID-19.
We need to stop making the same mistakes over and over again.
The pandemic has reminded us that health is not a luxury, it’s a human right. And that means everyone has the right to clean air and a healthy environment.
We know what needs to be done, so let’s get to work.
Merci beaucoup. Thank you so much.