45 million health professionals call for climate action before COP26 to avoid “the greatest health threat facing humanity”


WHO report calls for ambitious climate commitments as only path to long-term recovery from pandemic

Geneva, October 11, 2021 –
Just three weeks away from the United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, UK, over 400 organizations representing at least 45 million nurses, doctors and health professionals worldwide, or about three quarters of the global health workforce – signed an open letter to 197 heads of government and national delegations ahead of COP26, warning that the climate crisis is the greatest health threat facing humanity, and calling on world leaders to implement climate action (1).

The letter’s publication coincides with today’s publication of a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO), which argues that countries can only ensure a long-term recovery from the pandemic by implementing ambitious climate commitments. The report provides ten high-level recommendations, supported by action points, resources and case studies, including the need to put health and social justice at the heart of UN climate talks (see note 2 below for the full list).

The letter states: “Wherever we provide care, in our hospitals, clinics and communities around the world, we are already responding to the health damage caused by climate change, “. “The people and nations who have benefited most from the activities that caused the climate crisis, especially the extraction and use of fossil fuels, have a great responsibility to do all they can to help those who are now most at risk. .. ”

Speaking of the new WHO report,
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, said:

“Climate change has an impact on health in all countries, but it hits people in low- and middle-income countries the hardest. Any delay in addressing this threat to global health will disproportionately affect the world’s most disadvantaged. The COVID-19 pandemic is a visceral example of the inequitable impacts of such a global threat. To fully respond to the urgency of these two crises, we must address the inequalities that are at the root of so many global health challenges. “

Jeni Miller, executive director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance, said: “Forest fires, floods, heat waves and droughts impacting people’s health are on the increase around the world, exacerbating other health problems such as the pandemic. Integrating health and equity into climate policy will protect the health of populations, maximize returns on investment, and strengthen public support for urgent government responses to the climate crisis.

Both the letter and the report argue that health and equity must be at the center of the response to climate change; While the letter calls for action, the report provides the climate action plan that will protect the health of people around the world.

The letter, which was signed by various medical organizations and prominent figures, such as the Director General of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Medical Association, the International Council of Nurses and Physicians for Extinction Rebellion Switzerland, calls on all governments to update their national climate commitments under the Paris Agreement, in line with their fair share of limiting warming to 1.5 ° C. A recent UN Climate Change (UNFCCC) report found that countries’ collective climate commitments fall far short of this target and would lead to an increase in global temperature of at least 2.7 ° C by the end of the year. end of the century (3,4).

The 45 million healthcare professionals represented in the letter call for a swift and just transition from fossil fuels; for high income countries to deliver the promised transfer of climate funds; for investments in resilient and low-carbon health systems; and for investments in pandemic recovery to support climate action and reduce social and health inequalities.

The signatories to the open letter represent all regions of the world and include the International Council of Nurses, the World Medical Association, the International Federation of Medical Student Associations, the International Confederation of Midwives and the International Association of Nurses. pediatrics. See the complete list of signatories.

  1. More information on the #HealthyClimate prescription letter is available here.
  2. The WHO report “The health case for climate action” is available here. As part of key climate action, the report recommends:
  • place health and social justice at the heart of UN climate discussions, prioritizing climate interventions with the greatest health, social and economic gains;
  • guide a rapid transition to renewable energies, to save lives from air pollution, in particular from coal combustion, ensure the energy security of healthcare facilities and end energy poverty;
  • promote sustainable and healthy urban design and transport systems, with better land use, access to public space and priority to walking, cycling and public transport;
  • promote sustainable food supply chains and more nutritious diets that impact both climate and health;
  • finance a transition to a welfare economy;
  • mobilize and support the health community on climate action.


  1. Climate action monitoring, equitable sharing: https://climateactiontracker.org/methodology/cat-rating-methodology/fair-share/
  2. UNFCCC, Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, September 17, 2021, https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/cma2021_08_adv_1.pdf

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