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Joint statement: More than 300,000 health professionals call on G7 nations to phase out coal

More than 300,000 doctors, nurses and public health professionals and advocates from 30 countries are calling on G7 nations to accelerate the transition away from coal to save lives, with 82 organisations signing a Global Health Statement outlining the huge benefits to both human health and economies. As part of its healthy energy work in Europe, HEAL contributed to its development and is a signatory of the statement, which cites HEAL’s 2013 Unpaid Health Bill.

The Global Health Statement on Coal Plants is available here

How is coal making us sick

Coal-powered electricity worsens respiratory and cardiovascular disease in local populations, and it is also one of the largest single contributors to climate change, which has been called the greatest threat to global health of the 21st century by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Efforts to reduce the estimated 3.7 million deaths per year from outdoor air pollution will be substantially impacted by eliminating coal as a source of energy. Coal not only produces carbon, micro-pollutants and many other substances toxic to humans, but it is grossly inefficient when compared to renewable energy sources,” said Dr James Orbinski, Professor and Research Chair in Global Health at the BSIA School of International Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University Canada. “It would also harness synergies across the health and energy sectors, achieving better policy outcomes and, most importantly, better human and planetary health.”



Why this statement is key now?

The G7 meeting is one of the first major international gatherings since leaders committed to meaningful climate-action at the UN climate negotiations COP21 in Paris last December, and will include discussions on strengthening responses to public-health emergencies. To prevent the worst health effects of climate change, all G7 countries need to speed their efforts to phase out coal.

This is particularly important for Japan, host of this month’s G7 meeting, given that it has put public health emergencies high on the agenda yet has 47 new coal plants on the drawing board.

“Doctors, nurses and other health workers are trained to respond in a timely manner to fast-moving diseases, and our actions save lives. In order to protect the health and lives of millions around the world, we need similarly timely and fast¬moving actions from our leaders. Phasing out coal is a vital step toward a healthy future.” said Catherine Thomasson, MD, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Tree Call on communicating around coal, climate and health

On 18 May, HEAL’s Health and Energy Officer for the Balkans region Vlatka Matkovic Puljic presented the health costs and impacts of coal-fired power plants in the Western Balkans. Vlatka’s presentation was based on a recently published HEAL report as part of the Unpaid Health Bill series. (The recording of this call will be available shortly).

Notes:

1) Indoor and outdoor air pollution combined cause an estimated 8 million deaths per year. Outdoor air pollution is responsible for 3.7 million of these deaths. World Health Organisation WHA 2016 Draft Resolution. A69 18 (May 6, 2016 http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/WHA69/A69_18¬en.pdf).

2) Renewable energy and energy efficiency are readily available alternatives to coal power that reduce negative health impacts. Momentum is building as a number of G7 jurisdictions are already taking action on coal:

  • Ontario, Canada, completed a total phase¬out of 7,560 megawatts of coal power in 2014, while Alberta will phase out 6,200 megawatts of coal power by 2030
  • Oregon, USA, will phase out coal power by 2040, while New York state will phase out coal power by 2020
  • The United Kingdom will be coal free by 2025, and coal plants are already being taken offline
  • France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States have ended financing for overseas coal¬fired plants except in rare circumstances

Originally posted on 19 May 2016

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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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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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