Acting Now for Better Health: A 30% Reduction Target for EU Climate Policy (pdf)
read the press release
Impact of Climate Change on Health
Climate change is affecting our health and the world's healthcare systems. The health sector will be in the forefront of this battle, and will have to handle increased climate-change related disease (e.g., more respiratory illnesses) and deaths from extreme weather and higher temperatures.
Health Care Without Harm Europe (HCWH Europe) is raising awareness and advocating stronger action on climate change and energy. We work with the health sector to help it reduce its climate footprint. And we encourage all the players to exchange their experiences so the best ideas can reach the widest audience, allowing countries to speed up climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Climate change affects our health and healthcare. Healthcare providers will have to accommodate changing needs and a growing burden of disease as climate change advances. The more severe health-related effects of climate change become, the greater the need for financial and human resources to treat them. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that climate change already contributes to 150,000 deaths every year.
But climate change talks and the resulting policies reveal that our decision-makers are not fully aware either of the harm climate change is doing to our health, or of the potential benefits cutting greenhouse gas emissions could bring to our well-being. Thus the health sector's voice is crucial in raising awareness among policy-makers and the public to frame and influence the climate debate.
Tackling Climate Change
Recent data suggest that to keep global warming below the dangerous 2°C threshold, we must cut greenhouse gas production by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2020. This would dramatically improve public health and reduce rising healthcare costs. The benefits of tackling climate change will also offset much of the cost, according to the IPCC's Fourth Assessment report.
The EU has pledged to slash its own emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, and would cut emissions by up to 30% by the same deadline if other developed countries commit themselves to similar reductions under a global agreement. But this falls short of the 40% cut needed to avoid dangerous climate change. Nor does it consider the possible health benefits resulting from strong anti-climate change measures.
Applying these measures could also cut health costs. According to a co-benefits report by HEAL, CAN and WWF a 20% cut in Europe's carbon emissions by 2020 (based on 1990 levels) would reduce respiratory illness and by 2020 would deliver public health savings of some €52bn a year. This would rise to €76bn if carbon emissions fell by 30%.
Estimates would be markedly higher if we consider global health benefits. Fewer emissions mean cleaner air, fewer premature deaths among people with existing respiratory problems, 5,300 fewer cases of bronchitis, and 2,800 fewer hospital admissions every year.
Health studies and research show that what is good for health is also good for the climate. Our job is to convey this message to policy-makers in Europe. Read more on HCWH Europe's Advocacy work.
- Fact Sheet Air Pollution Diseases (pdf)
- Addressing Climate Change in the Health Care Setting: Opportunites for Action (pdf)
Outlines seven steps health care systems can take to reduce their climate footprint while improving public health, and presents examples from around the world
- Carbon Reduction for Health Systems
Learn more at the website of the NHS Sustainable Development Unit, UK
- Co-Benefits to Health of a Strong EU Climate Change Policy (pdf)
- Healthy Hospitals, Healthy Planet, Healthy People: Addressing Climate Change in Health Care Settings (pdf)
Aims at addressing the climate footprint of the health sector
- Lancet Series report on Health and Climate Change
- Making the Case for Policy Makers (pdf)
- World Health Organization website for information about Climate and Health
Pendo Maro, Senior Climate and Energy Advisor, Health Care Without Harm, and Michael Wilks, board member of HCWH Europe, talk about how investment in reducing greenhouse gases produces immediate and lasting benefits to health. enlarge video