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Press Release: European doctor launches warning of “grave health consequences”

NOTE: A press conference on the first-ever Global Climate and Health Summit will be at Kosi Palm, ICC on Tuesday 6 December 2011 from 11-11:30am, during the UNFCCC COP17 talks in Durban, South Africa. Media advisory and press release here.

Brussels, Monday 5 December 2011 – A UK medical professor and member of the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) delegation at the climate talks in Durban has announced a Durban Declaration and a “Call to Action” signed by more than 30 major health groups.

The Durban Declaration and “Call to Action” were presented at the first-ever Global Climate and Health Summit, which took place in Durban on Sunday 4 December. The meeting was well-attended with the medical and health presence at its highest ever in any annual conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). (1) Overall, an estimated 200 groups are taking part in the climate talks at Durban.

Dr. Hugh Montgomery, who is a professor of internal medicine in London and co-founder of Climate and Health Council, UK (2) said: "Climate Change poses an immediate and grave threat to human health and survival worldwide. Many are already affected. Emissions are rising steeply. Action is needed now- not ’later’."

The Durban Declaration warns of grave health consequences if the world cannot agree on major emissions reductions. Signatories to the “Call to Action” say they are profoundly concerned that as greenhouse gases continue rising unabated the existing health crises will be magnified with the overwhelming burden falling on the most vulnerable, who contributed least to the problem. (3) Earlier this year several hundred health leaders and security experts launched a statement with similar messages.

Juliet Duff, representing HEAL member organisation Irish Doctors’ Environmental Association (IDEA), says key demands of the UNFCCC national delegations are “a greater health sector representation on national delegations, a strong second commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, and that by 2015, a fair, ambitious and binding agreement consistent with the Prescription for a Healthy Planet which was endorsed by more than 130 health organisations in Copenhagen in 2009, will be negotiated.”

In Brussels, Genon Jensen, Executive Director of HEAL, is urging the European Union to step up climate action to protect and promote public health, and to continue to support a second round for the Kyoto Protocol. It is the only globally binding treaty that exists to move climate action forward urgently.

“Using health as a framework brings home why tackling climate change is urgent,” she believes. “It could help the EU reignite people’s belief in and support for the added value of EU coordination, particularly during a period in which they are facing hardships.

HEAL’s four-person delegation in Durban is comprised of Dr Hugh Edward Montgomery, Professor at the University College London (UCL) and co-founder of UK Climate and Health Council; Juliet Anne Duff, Chairperson of the Irish Doctors’ Environmental Association (IDEA); Pendo Maro, Senior Climate and Energy Advisor for HEAL and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), and Elizabeth Alexandra Finch, studying at the University College London (UCL). (2)

Members of the HEAL delegation have been talking to key policy makers, and Pendo Maro will be speaking at a follow-up meeting on Summit outcomes and plans for 2012, which will take place on Thursday 8 December in Durban.

HEAL has a booth in Durban for providing information and a gathering centre for the health community. Postcards, based on the findings of its joint report entitled “Acting Now for better helath – A 30% reduction target for EU climate policy”, are being distributed. (3)

Contacts:

(In Durban) Dr Hugh Montgomery, Professor, University College London – UCL Institute for Human Health & Performance (Email: h.montgomery@ucl.ac.uk; Mobile: +44 7500 33 57 56 / Tel: +32 2234 3640)

(In Durban) Juliet Duff, Chair, Irish Doctors’ Environmental Association – IDEA, can be contacted at (Email: julietduff@eircom.net; Tel: +32 2234 3640)

Génon K. Jensen, Executive Director, Health & Environment Alliance – HEAL (Email: genon@env-health.org ; Mobile: +32 495 808732; Website: www.env-health.org)

Diana G. Smith, Communications, Health and Environment Alliance – HEAL (Email: diana@env-health.org; Mobile: +33 6 33 04 2943)

Notes: (1) Each year, the Committee of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change brings together representatives of the world’s governments, international organizations and civil society. HEAL has previously led delegations to Copenhagen (2009), and Cancun (2020). (2) Details of the delegate participants at www.env-health.org/spip.php?article1322 (3) Report by Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) "Acting now for a better health. A 30% reduction target for EU climate policy." (2010 at www.env-health.org/actingnow)

Last updated on 12 December 2011

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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 »

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