Global medical and health organizations have called on world leaders ahead of U.N. climate talks to swiftly phase out of fossil fuels, saying climate change-induced extreme weather events are causing serious health problems worldwide.
"A full and rapid phaseout of fossil fuels is the most significant way to provide the clean air, water, and environment that are foundational to good health," they said in an open letter addressed to the United Arab Emirates' industry minister, Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, who will preside over the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Leaders arranging their participation in the COP28 conference, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 in Dubai, include Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Pope Francis, who is expected to become the first pontiff to take part in a U.N. climate summit.
While the U.N. climate conference has designated for the first time Dec. 3 as Health Day for concentrated discussions on the topic, the signatories of the letter stressed the upcoming gathering must address the root cause of the climate crisis -- the continued extraction and use of fossil fuels.
Organizations represented in the letter include the World Medical Association and the International Pediatric Association, with the combined membership of all the groups standing at 46.3 million.
In addition to climate-related health impacts, the letter pointed out that air pollution caused in part by burning fossil fuels causes 7 million premature deaths annually, and governments can reduce the burden from diseases like multiple cancers, heart disease and neurological conditions, among others, by improving air quality.
Health leaders were also critical of the fossil fuel industry for obstructing climate action at the UNFCCC negotiations and beyond, stressing it should not be allowed to continue its decades-long campaign.
Keeping the global temperature rise within the 1.5 C target of the Paris Agreement is essential to ensure good health and economic prosperity for all, they said.