Ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, the World Health Organisation has made a strong call for ambitious new climate change targets.
“The burning of fossil fuels is killing us,” it said in Geneva on Monday.
“Climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity.”
In 10 recommendations, the WHO demanded, among other things, better quality of life in cities, priority for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users and a sustainable agricultural economy.
An appeal was issued by 300 associations, on behalf of 45 million caregivers worldwide, to governments to adopt tougher climate action.
Improvements in climate protection would have an enormous positive effect on health, according to the WHO, and it could save considerable costs that arise from illness.
The WHO appeal said: “Wherever we deliver care, in our hospitals, clinics and communities around the world, we are already responding to the health harms caused by climate change.”
Among these harms, it mentions heatwaves, forest fires, malnutrition due to crop failure, among others.
“We call on the leaders of every country and their representatives at COP26 to avert the impending health catastrophe,” the WHO said.
According to the organisation, air pollution causes about seven million premature deaths every year, about 13 per minute.
If the WHO standards for air pollution were adhered to, including a significant reduction of the greenhouse gas emissions, 80 per cent of the deaths caused by air pollution could be avoided.
Only in September the WHO adjusted the limits for fine particles and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) that are still acceptable from a health point of view.
Large parts of Germany, for example, exceeded the new values last year, according to the country’s Federal Environmental Agency.
According to the WHO, those most affected by climate change are the ones least responsible for it.
Rich countries must provide more money for adaptation in other regions of the world, it said.