Sign open letter to prioritise health at COP28

On the occasion of the first ever health day at COP, an open letter from health professionals around the world urges the COP28 presidency and world leadership for a commitment to an expedited phase-out of fossil fuels and an investment in a renewable energy transition to ensure the health of all.

The letter, supported by organizations representing 46.3 million health professionals, emphasizes the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels, invest in clean energy technology, and reduce air pollution to protect public health.

The climate crisis is not just an environmental issue; it's a public health crisis that threatens the fundamentals of human life. The World Health Organization recognizes climate change as the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century, emphasizing the inseparable connection between a safe and stable climate and achieving health and well-being for all. Communities, health workers, and health systems worldwide are already experiencing the severe impacts of climate change, with extreme weather events, food and water insecurity, and displacement becoming more frequent and devastating.

One of the major drivers of climate change and air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuel combustion, particularly diesel and coal, is responsible for millions of deaths annually due to air pollution. Despite its well-documented consequences, 99% of the world's population lives in areas where air quality breaches the World Health Organization's guidelines, and air pollution's economic costs are staggering, totaling over $8.1 trillion in 2019.

Beyond air pollution, toxic discharges from downstream fossil fuel industries like petrochemicals, plastics, and pesticides also pose severe health and environmental risks. Communities near these facilities suffer from adverse health impacts, including cancer, endocrine disorders, and birth defects. 

Vets for Climate Action is proud to endorse this letter and is the only veterinary organisation in the world to sign. We recognise the links between animal, environmental and human health. Climate change is an animal health and welfare issue too.

Join the 46.3 million health workers who have signed. 


#FossilFree4Health #COP28HealthLetter

The letter is available in full here

COP28 Open Letter on fossil fuels from the Global Medical and Health Community

Dear COP 28 President-Designate Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber,

This year, world leaders gathering in the UAE to take stock of their climate commitments will for the first time engage in official programming focused on health. We, the signatories of this letter, support your leadership in bringing health front and center at COP28.

As global health leaders, we are committed to achieving health and well-being for all – this is not possible without a safe and stable climate. The Paris Agreement enshrined the “right to health” as a core obligation for climate action. Yet, communities, health workers and health systems around the world already face the alarming impacts of a changing climate. Climate change-induced extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and severe – many countries are grappling with the health consequences of extreme heat, unprecedented storms, floods, food and water insecurity, wildfires and displacement. For COP28 to truly be a “health COP,” it must address the root cause of the climate crisis: the continued extraction and use of fossil fuels including coal, oil and gas. We call on the COP28 Presidency and the leaders of all countries to commit to an accelerated, just and equitable phase-out of fossil fuels as the decisive path to health for all.

Ending our dangerous dependency on fossil fuels will improve the health prospects of future generations and will save lives. Keeping the global temperature increase within the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement is essential to ensure good health and economic prosperity for all. This will only be possible if we rapidly phase out fossil fuels. Fossil fuel phase-out will limit global warming, thereby protecting health from the devastating impacts of extreme weather, and preventing further ecological degradation and biodiversity loss. Failing to do so will lead to overwhelming health consequences, as well as the loss of key natural resources and ecosystem services that are critical to both human and non-human species health, thereby undermining One Health and planetary health.

In addition to climate-related health impacts, air pollution caused in part by burning fossil fuels causes 7 million premature deaths annually. The economic costs of air pollution-related health impacts amounted to over US$8.1 trillion, or 6.1% of global GDP, in 2019.By improving air quality, governments can reduce the burden of disease from multiple cancers, heart disease, neurological conditions including stroke, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Investments in clean energy sources will save hundreds of billions of dollars in health care costs associated with air pollution every year, while reducing economic losses from extreme weather events with damages worth US$253 billion (in 2021)

A full and rapid phase-out of fossil fuels is the most significant way to provide the clean air, water, and environment that are foundational to good health. We cannot rely on unreliable and inadequate solutions, like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), that extend the use of fossil fuels but do not generate the real and immediate health improvements which a renewable energy transition provides. False solutions like CCS risk making harmful emissions worse, straining the health of overburdened communities and delaying our progress toward meaningful climate progress.

The energy transition must be just and equitable for all. In transitioning to a clean energy future, there is an opportunity to undo the injustices of the fossil fuel dependent system, taking a systemic approach and emphasizing health, care and community well-being, leaving no one behind. Global leaders must ensure everyone, including fragile states and the most remote and excluded communities, has access to non-polluting, affordable, reliable, accessible and resilient clean energy, as well as to emerging technologies that make best use of this energy. A just transition offers the opportunity to reduce health inequities faced by minority and marginalized communities, especially with respect to the health effects of ongoing fossil fuel use and dependence.

Unlocking finance is essential to deliver a healthy and just transition. Achieving climate and health goals will only be feasible if we stop investing in fossil fuels and invest instead in proven climate and health solutions. Each year, countries spend hundreds of billions of dollars subsidizing the fossil fuel industry, money that could be spent investing in a healthy future. High-income countries, development finance institutions, and the private sector must dramatically increase – and fulfill – their commitments to drive investments in clean energy, clean air, and economic development for the communities most harmed by climate change and fossil fuel pollution.

Fossil fuel interests have no place at climate negotiations. The fossil fuel industry cannot be allowed to continue its decades-long campaign of obstructing climate action at the UNFCCC negotiations and beyond. Just as the tobacco industry is not allowed to participate in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, it is imperative to safeguard global collaboration on climate progress from the lobbying, disinformation, and delays in favor of industry interests.

Without ambitious climate action, the burden on health care systems and health care workers will be insurmountable. Health gains made in recent decades will be in vain and we will see the harmful impacts of climate change ruin our chances for a safe, equitable and just future. 

In this extraordinary year, with health for the first time on the COP agenda, we urge you to deliver real climate progress: Commit to an accelerated, just and equitable phase-out of fossil fuels and invest in a renewable energy transition as the decisive path to health for all. 



Health Issue

Air Pollution Health Risks with links to studies 


Health Check: In a nationwide study of children in Italy, residential proximity to truck emissions and traffic lights, places with high air pollution was associated with >6-fold increase in the odds of developing acute non-lymphoblastic leukemia


Health Check: A study in the US, found exposures to PM2.5 and NO2,  to be associated with increased risks of colorectal and prostate cancers


Health check: In Italy, the risk of lung-cancer mortality was approximately twice as high among women who reside within 25m of a major road, as compared to women living farther away


Health check: Higher exposure to PM2.5, NO2, and black carbon was associated with an increased risk of COVID-19 hospitalization, ICU admission, death, and hospital length of stay.


Health check: Selected air pollutants, especially NO2, were linked to an increased risk of incident diabetes, as well as risk of cardiovascular or diabetes mortality among persons with prevalent diabetes. 

Infant Health

Health check: Almost a million stillbirths a year can be attributed to air pollution. Research estimated that almost half of the stillbirths in LMICS could be linked to exposure to PM2.5, mostly produced from the burning of fossil fuels.

Infant Health

Health check: In Canada, a statistically significant association was observed between maternal exposure to NO2 and PM2.5 and adverse birth weight outcomes, including small for gestational age and reduced term weight


Health Check: In an assessment of gene-environment interactions related to Parkinson’s, an association was observed between long-term exposure NO2 and the incidence of inflammatory responses associated with Parkinson’s