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Open letter sent to G20 health meeting


G20 health ministers, meeting, Berlin, open letter, HEAL, WEN, NGOs, climate change and healthCall for G20 health leaders to recognise and act on the interconnectedness of climate change and health.

On 19-20 May the German Federal Health Minister, Hermann Gröhe, will lead G20 health ministers in Berlin in a discussion of how global health crisis management can be improved.

Germany took over the presidency of the G20 in December 2016 and put global health on the agenda as one of the key priorities. As a result of that, this first ever G20 Health Ministers’ Meeting is taking place – this month in Berlin.

The three priorities to be discussed during the meeting are global health crisis management, the strengthening of health care systems and the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

The Action for Breast Cancer Foundation, the Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) and 16 other member and partner organisations, have addressed the G20 health ministers in an open letter, outlining how these three priority areas are heavily impacted by the threat arising from climate change – and how important it is that this threat is highlighted during the meeting.

The signatories, representing millions of doctors, nurses and health professional in Europe, have called on health leaders to recognise and act on the interconnectedness of climate change and health, and to reflect this in the meeting’s anticipated joint declaration.

The letter runs:

Dear Minister,

We very much welcome the first G20 Health Ministers’ meeting to be held in Berlin on 19-20 May, which is a crucial step in granting global health the space it is entitled to within the G20 framework and acknowledging it as a significant driver of socioeconomic stability and sustainable development.

The meeting offers a unique opportunity to highlight the threat to global health arising from climate change as well as the significant opportunities in moving to a low carbon economy.

Health ministers can play a key role in shaping the health of billions of people worldwide by illustrating how G20key focus areas such as antimicrobial resistance or global health security threats and crisis management will be highly impacted by a warming climate, creating a serious threat to global health worldwide.

This could help set the direction for future G20 health meetings.

WHO estimates that, in 2012, 12.6 million deaths (23 per cent of all deaths worldwide) were attributable to modifiable environmental factors, many of which could be influenced by climate change or are related to its driving forces.

This threat has already been recognised by a number of Health

Ministers during the 2016 UN Climate Change negotiations in Morocco, resulting in the Marrakesh Declaration for Health, Environment and Climate Change.

But in order to protect global health, we must keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees.

Within the G20 there are multiple opportunities to act for the climate and therefore for health.

For example when setting a deadline to the phase out of harmful fossil fuel subsidies which could reduce worldwide premature deaths from air pollution by at least 50 per cent and free up billions in funds that could be used for public health promoting purposes.

You will already display your commitment for environmental health through the adoption of the Ostrava Ministerial Declaration at the upcoming WHO Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health that mentions climate change and air pollution as two of the six priority areas to work on in the future.

With this letter we ask you to highlight the interconnectedness of health and climate during the Health Ministers’ meeting by either making an intervention or by reflecting this commitment in the joint final declaration.

Now is the time for health leaders to signal that international agreements such as the Paris Agreement are taken seriously, and to prioritise climate change and environmental factors to ensure the health and safety of citizens worldwide.

Every environmental decision taken is simultaneously a decision for health. The good news is that we can use this global health crisis and transform it into an opportunity.

Yours sincerely,

Genon Jensen

Executive Director, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL)

On behalf of:

Action for Breast Cancer Foundation; Ärtze der Welt (Doctors of the World Germany); Ärztinnen und Ärzte für eine gesunde Umwelt; the Cancer Prevention and Education Society; the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare; the Clean Air Action Group; the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases; Patients’ Associations (EFA); the European Lung Foundation (ELF); the European Respiratory Society (ERS); France Nature Environnement; Fundación Alborada; the International Association of Mutual Benefit Societies; the Portuguese Society of Environmental Health (PSEH); Réseau Environnement Santé; Verein demokratischer Ärztinnen und Ärzte (VDÄÄ); Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF) and the Women’s Environmental Network.

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