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Cover: a surfer out at sea wearing a respirator due to the thick smoke haze caused by the Australian bushfires 2020.

June 2021

Welcome to the GCHA newsletter!

This year Brazil saw the worst number of fires for the month of May since 2007 in the Amazon and the Cerrado biomes, with 3,815 hotspots, representing an increase of 65% over 2020. Brazil is not alone. In 2019-2020, Australia endured the worst wildfire season in recorded history. Canada is witnessing unprecedented temperatures reaching 50∘C, and fires in the country are projected to increase and become more intense, driven by both climate change and poor forest management. These are just three examples of the growing threat of landscape fires around the world, recorded also in Bolivia, Paraguay, Siberia, South East Asia and the US. 
The bigger, more frequent forest and bush fires worldwide are having increased and not yet well-studied health impacts on people – including through longer and more frequent exposure to fire smoke by larger populations in distant cities.
In June, with our members the Climate and Health Alliance in Australia, the WONCA Working Party on the Environment, and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, we published a major report warning that worldwide, governments must act to prepare public health systems for the human impacts from recurring air pollution episodes, from fires caused by the climate crisis, deforestation practices, and poor land management.

The report The Limits of Livability – The emerging threat of smoke impacts on health from forest fires and climate change, with case studies from Australia, Brazil and Canada, shows us is that climate change is contributing to unprecedented new threats to health, and that to deal with this we must both prepare our health systems and communities to be better able to respond, and must deal with the root causes by taking urgent climate action.

The report triggered media interest worldwide, for example: AAP (Australia); Reuters EN and PT (global); Terra (Brazil); National Observer (Canada).
A key mechanism for driving climate action is the national climate commitments countries are required to update this year under the Paris Agreement -- the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). As part of the health community's ongoing #HealthyNDCs campaign, GCHA will next be launching a Healthy NDCs Scorecard on July 8 (details of the launch webinar in the calendar section). The scorecard evaluates the extent to which health is included in these national climate commitments as governments prepare for COP26. It will continue to be updated in the coming months as new NDCs are submitted.
Join the launch on July 8 to learn what healthy national climate commitments look like in practice, hear from civil society organizations who have been successfully advocating for the inclusion of health in climate policies, and view the first results for over 40 countries. And then use the Scorecard to support your own calls to your government to commit to more ambitious climate action, and to protect and promote public health in all of its climate strategies.


- Legal experts from across the globe have drawn up a “historic” definition of ecocide, intended to be adopted by the international criminal court to prosecute the most egregious offences against the environment. The draft law defines ecocide as “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts”. The Stop Ecocide Foundation initiative comes amid concerns that not enough is being done to tackle the climate and ecological crisis.

- Health Care Without Harm launched its Global Roadmap for the decarbonization of the health sector in Latin America. The roadmap traces the course towards Zero Emissions through seven actions aiming for health care systems that are resilient, equitable, and are aligned with the Paris Agreement.

- On May 29, doctors and health workers marched to the headquarters of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva to demand that health authorities and governments prioritise climate change to avert a global health crisis. Their demands for immediate action included a focus on preventative healthcare with education programmes in schools and the wider community, more equitable distribution and access to medical care, reducing the carbon impact of health care, and stricter control of industries to ensure clean water and air.

- Medical leaders and members of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change urged UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to cut legal levels of air pollution in the UK and bring it below World Health Organization limits in response to the death of the schoolgirl Ella Kissi-Debrah from toxic air.

- Climate campaigners claimed a historic victory after a Brussels court condemned Belgium for its climate policy that breaches the country's duty of care and human rights obligations. The verdict from the Court of First Instance followed a six-year legal battle first launched by non-profit group Klimaatzaak (Climate Case) representing over 58,000 citizens.

- On June 15, for World Environment Day, the Indian Academy of Pediatrics hosted a set of lectures, Together We Can Restore Our Ecosystem”.

- The WHO online course on Climate Change Negotiations and Health provides clear, concise, and up-to-date information for anybody interested in addressing the health risks arising from climate change. The course is self-paced and includes a series of self-standing interactive lessons with different activities, exercises, case studies and videos, as well as links to other useful resources. Upon successful completion of the course, participants can receive a certificate of completion.

- A new tool tracks COVID-19 related fiscal spending policies announced by the 33 Latin America and Caribbean countries. The tool is updated every week, both highlighting where funds are going and their potential economic, environmental, and social impacts. To date, it finds, less than 2.2% of recovery funding is being directed to a “green” recovery.

- Healthy Energy Initiative India, in partnership with health organizations, has launched a new communication guide on climate and health for healthcare professionals in India. The guide is available in Hindi and English, and is designed to “prepare healthcare workers for various conversations around climate change and subsequent health impacts with their patients, communities and to respond to stakeholders like media, legislators, policymakers and a range of various communication purposes.

- The Institute of Health Carlos III (Spain) organized an online information session about climate change and its impacts on health (in Spanish). The recordings are available online.

- Need some ideas of what to read during your holiday? Worry no more, we, or rather The Guardian, have you covered with Stories to save the world: the new wave of climate fiction,“cli-fi”.



The health community joining GCHA keeps growing!


We are pleased to welcome the following new members:

GCHA membership is free and is open to health organizations.
Learn more about membership


Check out the GCHA website to see the rest of the amazing member organizations.





"All health professionals should be trained to understand the damage caused by air pollution, and the worsening health toll from climate change. In Brazil, we cannot be passive about the destruction of laws that harm nature and cause diseases and death." - Dr Enrique Barros, chair of WONCA Environment, the World Organization of Family Doctors - The Limits of Livability, 2021
'If this is what we experience regularly, we just can't live here. This is not something we can experience regularly. There's no way to maintain the population density in the places that we live if these are the seasonal changes ahead.” - Dr Arnagretta Hunter Cardiologist, ANU, Canberra, Australia - The Limits of Livability, 2021
“Imaginez que je vous découvre une grave maladie mais que je ne vous en parle pas. Vous m’en voudriez? Et bien pour moi la même question se pose pour le changement climatique”. (EN: “Imagine I discover you have an alarming new illness and I don’t tell you about it. Would you be mad at me? For me, the same question applies to climate change.”) - Dr Claudel Pétrin-Desrosier, Chair of the Québec chapter of CAPE (Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment) gives a TEDx talk on climate and health
(...) Whether I'm speaking with community members, media, or decision makers, they ask ‘So doctor, is this a new normal?’ And every single time, I have to say, ‘No, it's not, it's going to get worse.’ Coming to terms with the inevitability of worsening climate disruption is difficult but key to ensuring a healthy future. Preparation is the prescription.” - Dr Courtney Howard ER Physician and wildfire researcher Chief Drygeese Territory, Yellowknife, Canada - The Limits of Livability, 2021
“People don't like to think about the decades ahead — we wouldn’t be in the current climate crisis if they did. In my work, I repeatedly see that smoke arrives, everybody gets worked up about it, then it dissipates and everyone forgets about it. If the next year is not a bad wildfire year, wishful thinking sets in and the previous severe season is remembered as an anomaly. However, this problem is with us for decades and it's going to have long-term health consequences.' -  Dr Sarah Henderson Scientific Director, Environmental Health Services, British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) Associate Professor, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia - The Limits of Livability, 2021



July 8 - launch of the Healthy NDCs Scorecard, online webinar
2pm-3:15pm UTC/ 4pm-5:15pm CEST/ 10:00am-11:15am EDT/ 7am-8:15am PDT/ 12am-1:15am Sydney (+1)/ 11pm-12:15am (+1) Tokyo
July 14 - Webinar Cambio Climático y Salud en las Américas, by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), 12pm EDT (US/Canada)
July 14 - 8:00–9:00am BST: Exploring the links between climate change, air quality and health, the fourth event of the Environment and Health series from Public Policy Project in the UK.
July 27 - Climate & Health Social Media Advocacy Training for health professionals, details to follow. Two sessions are organized and co-hosted by GCHA and the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change:
8am UTC/ 10am CEST/ 4am EDT/ 1am PDT/ 6pm Sydney/ 5pm Tokyo:
4pm UTC/  6pm CEST/ 12pm EDT/ 9am PDT/ 2am Sydney (+1)/ 1am Tokyo (+1):
September 7 - International Day of Clean Air 2021 “Healthy Air, Healthy Planet”
Save the Date: November 6-7 - 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.

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

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