Health groups call for fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty

PARIS: More than 1,400 health professionals and 200 health organisations called on countries to create a legally enforceable international convention on the phase-out of fossil fuels on Wednesday, claiming that these fuels constitute "a grave and rising threat to human health."

According to a letter outlining the "fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty," it may function similarly to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control of the World Health Organization, except that this time the hazardous restricted substances would be coal, oil, and gas.

Several international health organisations, including the WHO, signed the letter.

"The current addiction to fossil fuels goes beyond simple environmental destruction. It is a self-defeating behaviour from a health standpoint "In a statement, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus remarked.

The letter urged national governments to create and put into effect a legally binding process that would immediately halt any further development of fossil fuels and gradually phase down current production.

In order to ensure that the transition "reduces poverty rather than worsening it," it was emphasised that it should be carried out in a fair and equitable manner. High-income countries should also provide assistance to lower-income countries.

Seven million people a year are thought to die as a result of air pollution, which is primarily caused by burning fossil fuels.

Extreme weather events have become more common and severe as a result of climate change. These occurrences, such as smoke from wildfires and infections spread after floods, can have a lasting effect on health even beyond people who were directly impacted.

In addition, the letter emphasised the increased health hazards that employees who extract, process, transport, and distribute fossil fuels and related goods suffer.

According to the letter, phase-out of fossil fuels would avert 3.6 million lives annually just due to air pollution, but "the same cannot be stated for other fake solutions, such as carbon capture and storage."

fossil fuels or public health

The chief of the WHO's climate change division, Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, asserted that "from a health perspective, you can't repair an illness without calling out what is causing it."

The call for a treaty was important because it did not "try to use false accounting or imaginary solutions to continue to prop up the burning of fossil fuels," he told AFP.

"We can't have both fossil fuels and good health," someone once said.

The letter's signatory, an emergency physician in Canada's subarctic region named Courtney Howard, said that Yellowknife's air quality in 2014, when it was surrounded by wildfires, was among the worst in the world.

According to Howard, "we had a doubling in asthma emergency room visits, a 50% spike in pneumonia, and one of our pharmacies ran out of one of the breathing medications."

Fossil fuel phaseouts, according to her, are "something we need to accomplish for everyone - for everyone's kids."

Jeni Miller, the executive director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance which helped coordinate the letter, called for international dialogue and negotiation to make the treaty a reality.

She declared, "The costs of inaction are rising.

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