WMA calls for urgent action on climate change to protect health

(18.12.2014) The World Medical Association is urging governments to commit to an ambitious and binding climate agreement to protect public health. It notes that disappointingly, last week’s COP20 negotiations in Lima, Peru concluded with limited progress toward a deal in 2015.

Dr. Mukesh Haikerwal, Chair of the WMA Council, said: ‘Climate change is one of the greatest threats to human health. The WMA strongly believes that the health sector must be fully integrated in current global debate and action on climate change.’

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released earlier this year detailed a multitude of threats to human health posed by climate change:

More than seven million deaths annually attributed to air pollution, largely as a result of fossil fuels;

Uncontrolled spread of deadly infectious diseases including malaria, dengue fever, water-borne diseases;

Worsening natural disasters and flooding;

Exacerbation of food insecurity and hunger;

Increased migration and conflict.

‘As negotiators look toward Paris, it is imperative that governments commit to addressing the devastating health implications of unmitigated climate change,’ said Dr. Haikerwal. The inclusion of “health and sustainable development co-benefits” of addressing climate change in Article 19 of the draft Lima call for climate action represents an important first step - but stronger leadership and commitments by governments are urgently needed to facilitate a robust and binding agreement at COP21 next year.

As climate change negotiations continue, the WMA is committed to ensuring that the medical community is actively engaged in advocacy and action to mitigate climate change.

WMA President Dr. Xavier Deau added: ‘This matter was deemed important to seek action at the WMA "H20" Health summit hosted by the Australian Medical Association and AMA Victoria and the "G20" Leaders' summit in Brisbane. More, defined tangible action is possible and desirable’.