BSLM and ELMC call on governments and leaders to deliver on climate action
the BSLM Team
12th Oct, 2021
The British Society of Lifestyle Medicine and the European Lifestyle Medicine Council have signed a letter calling on world leaders to deliver on climate action.
BSLM and ELMC are joint signatories, along with 300 health organisations worldwide, in a letter to national leaders and country delegations attending next month’s COP26 meeting in Glasgow.
Together, signatories and individuals signing the letter represent at least 45 million nurses, doctors and health professionals worldwide – about three quarters of the global health workforce.
The letter has been sent to the 197 government leaders and national delegations ahead of COP26, warning that the climate crisis is the single biggest health threat facing humanity, and calling on world leaders to deliver on climate action.
The letter’s publication also coincides with the release 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 delivers 10 high-level recommendations, backed up by action points, resources and case studies, including the need to place health and social justice at the heart of the UN climate talks.
The letter states: “Wherever we deliver care, in our hospitals, clinics and communities around the world, we are already responding to the health harms caused by climate change. Those people and nations who have benefited most from the activities that caused the climate crisis, especially fossil fuel extraction and use, have a great responsibility to do everything possible to help those who are now most at risk.”
Dr Rob Lawson, Chairman of the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine and President of the ELMC, said: “There’s a deep connection between environmental sustainability and human health, and if we are to lead healthier, happier lives we must do everything we can to look after the planet we call home.
“Lifestyle medicine can, and must, be part of the solution and that’s why BSLM and the ELMC have signed this letter along with many others from the global health community.”
“Lifestyle medicine is an evidence-based medical discipline which acknowledges the complex “lifestyle” factors which impact on our health – and that includes wider environmental and social determinants. Climate change, pollution and food production are deeply entwined with human health – and solutions to these challenges must put health improvement front and centre.”
“The indirect health impacts of climate change include air pollution, vector borne disease, reduced food production, adverse mental health and increased conflict. However, many of the solutions to the climate crisis offer us the opportunity to improve our health. For example, reducing air pollution, eating a healthier diet and engaging in more active forms of travel can all help us to address chronic ill health.”
“Tackling chronic ill health at a global level starts with people being enabled to make positive changes in their own lives. We need to support people to improve their diet, exercise more, get better sleep, handle stressors, improve their social connections and reduce harmful substance use. But both at the individual and societal level we also need to find ways to live more sustainably. Ultimately, that will benefit people, their health, and our planet.”
“By integrating health and equity into climate policy, leaders across the UK have the opportunity to protect people’s health, maximise both value and returns on investments, and build public support for the urgently needed responses from governments to the climate crisis.”
Both the letter and the report argue that health and equity must be at the centre of climate change response. While the letter calls for action, the report provides the blueprint for delivering climate action that will protect the health of people around the world.
The letter 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 report by UN Climate Change (UNFCCC) found that countries’ collective climate commitments are falling far short of this goal, and would lead to a global temperature rise of at least 2.7°C by the end of the century.
The 45 million health professionals represented in the letter are demanding a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels; for high income countries to provide the promised transfer of climate funds; for investments in resilient and low carbon health systems; and for pandemic recovery investments to support climate action and reduce social and health inequities.
The signatories of the open letter represent every region of the world, and also include the International Council of Nurses, the World Medical Association, the International Federation of Medical Students Associations, the International Confederation of Midwives, and the International Paediatrics Association.