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October 2021

Three weeks ahead of the UN climate conference (COP26) in Glasgow, UK, the global health community wrote to the 197 government leaders and national delegations at COP26, calling on world leaders to deliver on climate action. The signatories to the letter are over 500 organizations representing more than 46 million nurses, doctors, health professionals and health workers worldwide - about three quarters of the health professionals from every region of the world. 

The global health workforce demanded a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels; for high income countries to provide the promised transfer of climate funds; for investments in resilient and low carbon health systems; and for pandemic recovery investments to support climate action and reduce social and health inequities.

In Canada, health groups took the messages of the letter and wrote to their own Prime Minister Trudeau. 

The letter’s launch coincided with the release of a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO), which argues that countries can only ensure a long-term recovery from the pandemic by implementing ambitious climate commitments. Both the letter and the report argue that health and equity must be at the center of climate change response; while the letter calls for action, the report provides the blueprint for delivering climate action that will protect the health of people around the world.

In his address during the WHO press conference ahead of COP26, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) CEO Howard Catton called for investment in #nursing and #health care systems as an essential requirement if we are to combat the effects of both climate change and #COVID19.


What makes this global joint effort even more exceptional is the breakthrough achieved by the health community. We can see that health and climate change are finally seen as sides of the same coin, and media reports are finally making the connection: climate action is needed to counter detrimental health impacts on a global scale.

We, the health community, are a powerful group - we have to sustain our effort during and after COP26 to ensure political leaders will start putting their money where their mouth is, and turn commitments into enforceable policies and concrete action. We can still achieve 1.5ºC, but we need all hands on deck, and we need that now.



- The third edition of the “Healthy NDCs Scorecard” features 94 NDCs, representing a total of 120 countries (including the EU27 joint NDC submission). Three middle income countries, Cambodia, Moldova and Cabo Verde, rank as joint leaders for their consideration of health across five categories, with scores of 14 out of 15. Myanmar joins Costa Rica with 13 points. At the other end of the scale, Ukraine, and Sao Tome and Principe, join Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Brazil and others with a score of zero. The EU, representing 27 member states, registers just one point, while the US scores six, and the UK seven out of a possible fifteen. 


-South Africa raised its NDC score from 7/15 to 12/15 for inclusion of health, and set greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets that are nearly 1.5C compatible, if they fulfill the most ambitious end of their proposed range. The development follows the submission made by the Public Health Association of South Africa, the South African Medical Association, and pan-African group Amref Health Africa during the public comment period for the draft national NDC, recommending ways in which health and equity could be incorporated into the NDC, also calling for South Africa to set strong GHG emissions commitments. 


-Over 50 health organizations, collectively representing over 11,500 hospitals and health centers, have joined the Race to Zero ahead of COP26. The healthcare system initiative is led by Health Care Without Harm, a GCHA founding member. By participating in this UNFCCC-backed campaign, these organizations are committing to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and are now part of the largest ever alliance outside of national governments committed to delivering a zero carbon world in line with the Paris Agreement.


-Seven Aotearoa (New Zealand) health professional organizations, including GCHA member OraTaiao, have written a joint letter to Prime Minister Ardern and the Climate Change Minister, ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26. They called for a significant increase in Aotearoa’s international climate contribution, asking to keep the capacity to limit global warming within a humanly adaptable 1.5 degrees. 


-A new article published in health journals, co-authored by GCHA’s Jeni Miller, Edward Maibach, MonaSarfaty and others, finds that a majority of surveyed health professionals are “alarmed” about climate change. It provides insights on how health professionals can play a role and advocate for climate and health solutions.


-Four briefings developed by Health and Climate Network (HCN) look at the evidence on how current food, energy, transport and health systems are contributing to the climate crisis and impacting peoples’ health, and at how they can also be part of the solution. The briefs spell out specific policy solutions to address climate and health in each of these areas.


-In a special article published in the International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, leading obstetricians and gynaecologists (OBGYNs) from FIGO (the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics) highlighted the impact of the climate crisis on human reproduction and the fundamental risks it poses to the very continuation of our species.


-Thirty passionate paediatric healthcare providers are taking part in the “Ride for their Lives”, leaving London on bicycles heading for COP26 in Glasgow, where they expect to arrive by 31st October. WHO’s  Head of Climate, Dr Diarmid Campbel-Lendrum had already cycled 850km from Geneva to London, carrying the letter, which he handed over to the riders.



In Glasgow the team will announce the numbers of kilometres completed by Ride for their Lives participants around the world (see map below) - who could dedicate the cycled kms in October to support the Ride - and hand over a suite of documents from the global healthcare community that outline the need for urgent action on air pollution and the wider climate crisis. This includes the Healthy Climate Prescription letter, which all health professionals  are encouraged to sign. Chilean doctors from the Medical College of Chile joined the ride with a lot of enthusiasm from the desert of Atacama North, to Patagonia in the South. They organized family bike rides and were met by regional governors who received the climate prescription letter along with other environmental health demands by the health professionals.



The Regional Consultations are a series of online activities in the six WHO regions, which involved health professionals who are working to address causes and impacts of climate change. In this blog, GCHA’s Network and Engagement Lead Jennifer Kuhl highlights the involvement of health professionals in the process, and the outputs of the regional consultations.




The climate crisis is a health crisis. It’s heartening that health care organizations worldwide are providing leadership to this crisis. They’re sending a strong message to governments to take climate action and protect public health by accelerating a transition away from fossil fuels.” - Sonia Roschnik, International Climate Policy Director, Health Care Without Harm

“We are way off track. (...) It is hoped COP26 will see a dramatic increase in commitments. We need to transform our commitment into action that will have an impact on GHGs. We need to revisit our industrial, energy and transport systems and whole way of life – the needed changes are economically affordable and technically possible. There is no time to lose.” - Prof Petteri Taalas, chief of the UN’s World Meteorological Organization

The 30+ NHS riders are from the legendary children’s Hospitals around the UK and their “Ride for their lives” is pushing for climate action to protect the health and futures of the children they care for.” - Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, Head of WHO Climate Change Unit who biked from Geneva to London, as part of the Ride for their Lives. Follow LIVE from London.


"With the upcoming #COP26, we have a unique's a crucial moment for world leaders to commit to a better future for all." - Marina Romanello, Lead Scientist at The Lancet





-31st October - 12 November: COP26, Glasgow, UK


Save the Date: November 6 - Global Climate and Health Conference on the margins of COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, convened by the World Health Organization, GCHA, the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, and other health partners. Register online. A livestream of the conference will be available here.


There is a wealth of activities for the health community to engage with during COP26 - find out more in the outline GCHA prepared. This includes a series of health events taking place at COP26.


*** The GCHA newsletter is now available in Spanish ***


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Health organizations are invited to become members of the Global Climate and Health Alliance.

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