Calls to combat climate crisis heat up!
In part one of a special series in the Hauora newsletter, as COP26 comes to a close in Glasgow, Scotland, we look at repeated warnings and recent calls to action to combat climate change, including the São Paulo Declaration.
“Planetary health science convincingly demonstrates that the ongoing degradation of our planet’s natural systems is a clear and present danger to the health of all people everywhere,” says Sam Myers, director of the Planetary Health Alliance.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is a turning point within each of our lifetimes and must serve as a moment of transition for humanity. To protect human health and all of life on Earth, we will need to, and can, effect urgent, deep, structural changes in how we live.”
The Principal Research Scientist in Environmental Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and lead author of The Lancet letter made the comment upon the launch in October of the latest call to action to save our planet — the São Paulo Declaration, which calls for a ‘fundamental shift in how we live on Earth’.
This shift which the Declaration calls the ‘Great Transition … will require rapid and deep structural changes across most dimensions of human activity’. The Declaration outlines what actions are necessary to achieve ‘a just transformation to a world that optimises the health and wellbeing of all people and the planet’.
Signed by more than 250 organisations around the world, including the Health Promotion Forum of NZ, the Declaration was launched in the build up to COP26 (Conference of the Parties) in Glasgow, Scotland from October 31 to November 14.
HPF’s Executive Director and Co-Chair of the IUHPE Global Working Group on Waiora Planetary Health and Human Wellbeing Sione Tu’itahi says the Declaration is a ‘global effort of the planetary health community, calling on all of humanity to collaborate and elevate its consciousness towards a more equitable and resilient post-pandemic world’.
With much of the world now being ravaged by extreme weather events caused by climate change; Floods, wildfires, heatwaves, drought, and cyclones leaving trails of disaster, killing hundreds, displacing millions, and causing damage worth billions, the world’s chances of survival are getting slimmer and slimmer! Poor and marginalised communities are often the worst affected by loss of lives and livelihoods.
‘Our planet is changing before our eyes from ocean depths to mountain tops,” warned UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres in his opening speech at COP26. “From melting glaciers to relentless, extreme weather events. Sea level rise is double the rate it was 30 years ago, oceans are hotter than ever, and getting warmer faster. Parts of the Amazon rainforest now emits more carbon than they absorb.”
In an unprecedented call to action in mid-September this year, 231 medical journals around the world came together to publish the same editorial, titled “Call for emergency action to limit global temperature increases, restore biodiversity, and protect health”.
Led by a group of chief editors from world-leading journals such as The Lancet, The BMJ and The New England Journal of Medicine, as well as the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the editorial stated: “The greatest threat to global public health is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5℃ and to restore nature.”
The clarion call couldn’t be any clearer – ACT NOW, before it’s too late!
Year after year, the warning bells have been sounded! COPs have come and gone, conferences and summits have been held, commitments have been made and plans have been written. Yet as US President Joe Biden surmised at COP26, ‘… we’re still falling short. There’s no more time to hang back or sit on the fence or argue amongst ourselves’.
Scientists have been warning about the ‘clear link’ between natural disasters and climate change for years.
The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established by the UN in 1989, has released numerous reports and warnings about the potential impacts of climate change and the response options.
Ominously its most recent report in August issued a “code red” for humanity.
The report predicts the average global temperature is likely to rise by more than 1.5°C within the next two decades, going over the limit settled in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
Another call to action was sounded at the world health promotion conference co-hosted by HPF and the International Union for Health Promotion (IUHPE) in Rotorua in April 2019 where two legacy documents the ‘Waiora – Indigenous Peoples’ Statement for Planetary Health and Sustainable Development’and the ‘Rotorua Statement WAIORA: Promoting Planetary Health and Sustainable Development for All’ were issued by participants.
The documents call on the global community to urgently act to promote planetary health and sustainable development for all, now and for the sake of future generations. The vital role of indigenous knowledge in helping to combat this crisis was highlighted in the Indigenous legacy document in which the health promotion community and the wider global community are called on ‘to make space for and privilege Indigenous peoples’ voices in this arena’.
Mr Tu’itahi who co-chaired the conference said: ‘Unity of thought and action is key. We must work together as one human family at the local and global level … we will continue the dialogue at the IUHPE2022 Conference in Montreal, May 2022.”
It’s time to heed these warnings and calls to action! No more procrastinating!
As the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Climate Action, Selwin Hart said in a recent interview on the UN website: “We have a very narrow window of opportunity to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Climate action is not something that can be delayed for 10, 20 or 30 years. We must take urgent and ambitious action now.”