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HEAL promotes health benefits at COP19

During the COP19 climate negotiations in Warsaw earlier this month, HEAL’s delegation successfully brought forward the messages from the health and medical professionals and representatives of patients’ organisations into the climate debate.

During various activities taking place in Warsaw between 11 and 22 November 2013, the HEAL official delegation to COP19 promoted the important benefits for health of both strong action to mitigate climate change and the phasing out of the use of coal in electricity generation in Europe.

Members of HEAL also attending meetings in Warsaw included representatives from the European Respiratory Society (ERS), Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) and Inter Environnement Wallonie, Belgium.

HEAL at health-related events during COP19

Citizens’ energy for a good climate: A participatory debate about Poland and its future

On Friday 15th November Julia Huscher, HEAL’s coal and health officer participated at an event taking place in parallel to COP19 organised by the Greens in the European Parliament. As this event focused on the participatory debate about Poland and its future climate decisions, Julia spoke about HEAL’s recent work on coal and health in Poland and across Europe. She highlighted the many chronic diseases linked with coal power generation, as well as the huge health care costs associated with burning coal. In Poland health costs associated with exposure to coal-fired electricity alone are estimated at €8.2 billion a year.

The panel discussion was moderated by MEP Satu Hassi who highlighted the huge health bill we are paying from emissions and that we urgently need to improve our air quality. Oliver Krischer, a Green member of the German Bundestag from North Rhine-Westphalia spoke about coal from the German perspective and Dr. Małgorzata Tkacz-Janik, Green deputy of the Regional Assembly in Silesia, Poland highlighted the impact of coal-fired power generation on our children as well as air pollution being an important factor in the perceived low quality of life in her region, causing many young people to move away.

WHO Europe official COP19 side event

On 18th November within the EU Pavilion of the COP19 negotiations venue, HEAL Executive Director Genon K. Jensen spoke on the panel for WHO Europe’s side-event ‘The health benefits of enhanced action’. Enhanced action for adaptation, mitigation, financing and technology transfer related to climate change can have significant benefits for population health and public health development.

Genon spoke alongside representatives of the health ministries of Poland and the UK, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, the EU Commission DG for Climate Action, UNFCCC, and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Speakers highlighted the contribution of the environment and health process in Europe, particularly the Commitment to Act accompanying the Parma Declaration on Environment and Health. They agreed that there is no single solution to climate change and a package of flexible mechanisms, stronger awareness raising activities and capacity development are urgently needed.

Discussions followed from the audience with a strong point made about the need to renew engagement with health sector professionals and engage them in the negotiation process. Developing countries suffer highly from the impacts of climate change on health as they are burdened with already constrained health budgets and facilities. They were keen to learn from the experiences of the WHO European Region in dealing with the health impacts from climate change in their national strategies.

The WHO sent out a press release after the event which is available here

HEAL’s communication and outreach during COP19

The HEAL delegation was highly active in spreading the health message during COP19 be it related to the official negotiations or events taking place elsewhere in Warsaw.

Social media

We actively engaged via social media channels, sending messages from events, media and discussions taking place during our time in Warsaw. We gained a substantial number of new followers, retweets and mentions including from MEP Satu Hassi, the WHO, Stakeholder Forum, Healthy Planet UK, Climate and Health Council, medical students and HEAL members, to name a few!

You can take a look at our tweets here @HealthandEnv

A month before COP19 on the occasion of the Global Day of Action against Coal in October, HEAL launched a coal and health Facebook page to encourage individuals to share their personal stories on how coal is affecting their health. During COP19, this page was updated regularly.

Outreach magazine

During the first week of COP, HEAL had two entries in the Outreach magazine by Stakeholder Forum, one of the most widely read magazines at the negotiations. The first entry by HEAL entitled Coal’s double health burden appeared in an edition on climate and energy available here

The second entry was submitted by Olga Rostkowska, President of the European Medical Students’ Association and a member of HEAL’s delegation during COP19. This article entitled Coal in the heart of Europe appeared in an edition focused solely on climate and health available here.

HEAL in the media

Olga Rostkowska posted a blog in the British Medical Journal on 22 November available here.

Prior to COP, HEAL’s latest report ‘The Unpaid Health Bill: How coal power plants make us sick’ was mentioned in a Guardian green blog Warsaw UN climate talks: Welcome to Coaland, 11 November 2013 available here

Last updated on 28 November 2013

About HEAL

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »


HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL)
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Press: Elke Zander

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