Blog Paris Numero 1 - OraTaiao Co-convenor Dr Alex Macmillan Reports from Paris
Almost before I begin this it will be out of date. Things are moving fast in COP21 and it’s impossible to stay current in such fluid negotiations.
I arrived last Friday for the Climate and Health Summit, organised by the Global Climate and Health Alliance, alongside WHO. OraTaiao had a prime stand – the first thing people saw as they came out of the auditorium was our banner on the wall. There was a lot of interest in our journal articles which disappeared fast and generated lots of conversation. In particular, the article linking human rights, climate change and hauora Māori began quite a few discussions about how health professionals might link human rights to hold governments accountable on climate action.
More than 300 people attended the summit and what was most heartening were the number of non-health people there, including representatives of local government, like the Deputy Mayor of Paris, and of non-health sectors of national government. John Vidal, Environment reporter for the Guardian, chaired the day. Although he was frustrated by the lateness with which health had coalesced around climate change, he was heartened by the positive action taking place. He contrasted the mood within the negotiations of “We won’t”, with the mood at the climate and health summit of “We can”.
John Vidal from the Guardian chairs a session at the climate and health summit.
Food is a major emerging issue in Paris. Not just the risks of food insecurity of unabated climate change, but the need to deal with the carbon footprint of food, and the co-benefits for health this might bring. Intensive meat production came under particular fire, including some stark FAO statistics from the US showing that only 10% of grain in the US is used for food – 43% is used for animal feed while 30% is maize used to produce ethanol.
During the summit I met with the Ministers of Health of Fiji and Tuvalu. They pulled no punches as they described the impacts that sea level rise and more frequent storms are already having on their over-stretched health systems and infrastructure. They were also blunt about New Zealand’s egregious failure to act responsibly by committing to curb our own emissions or negotiate for a global agreement that would protect health and survival in the Pacific and clear that a 1.5 degree limit to average global warming was a minimum for survival.
With Hon. Jone Usamate and Hon. Satini Tulaga Manuealla, Ministers of health of Fiji and Tuvalu.
Global combined health declarations were released at the summit, representing 1,700 health organizations, 8,200 hospitals and health facilities, and 13 million health professionals, bringing the global medical consensus on climate change to a level never seen before. These declarations included our own health call to action and the recent RACP declaration.
Despite efforts by the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA), low and middle income countries were under-represented among the speakers at the summit. As we later took part in GCHA governance discussions, building capacity in low and middle income country NGOs for climate and health was a major topic. An interim board for the GCHA will be set up to take the movement forward – with existing strong national organisations like Climate and Health Alliance Australia, Healthcare Without Harm and OraTaiao all having a position. We will be tasked with building links in low and middle income countries to extend our reach and relevance globally.