The health sector needs to act quickly and assertively to promote policies that will reduce climate change and its consequences, says the World Health Organization (WHO).
In a statement issued ahead of the first global conference on health and climate, to be held in Geneva from 27 August to 29 August 2014, the WHO suggests that changes in energy and transport policies could save millions of lives annually from diseases caused by air pollution. Such policies could also reduce diseases linked to physical inactivity and traffic injury.
“Reducing climate change can yield substantial and immediate health benefits,” says Maria Neira, WHO director for public health, environmental and social determinants of health. “The most powerful example is air pollution, which in 2012 was responsible for seven million deaths — one in eight of all deaths worldwide. There is now solid evidence that mitigating climate change can greatly reduce this toll.”
WHO also highlights that tens of thousands of deaths every year are caused by changes in how infectious diseases behave, extreme weather events and the degradation of water supplies, sanitation and impacts on agriculture.
The conference will be followed by the UN Climate Summit in September 2014.