Bold action needed: New Policy Brief on Health and Climate Change in Canada
Climate change is undermining the foundations of human health and gravely affecting Canada’s health systems, warns a new Policy Brief published today, supported by both the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, and the Canadian Public Health Association. In order to protect them, we must collectively recognize that human health and Earth’s natural processes are intertwined – interconnections long acknowledged within Indigenous perspectives – and governments must invest in a sustainable future and transition to an economy explicitly centered around the health and well-being of current and future generations.
Published today, the Policy Brief for Canada builds from the global Lancet Countdown report, which presents 43 indicators that monitor the impacts of climate change on health, and the health benefits of climate action. The 2022 global Lancet Countdown report warns that health is at the mercy of fossil fuels, revealing that the health impacts of multiple crises are being exacerbated by persistent fossil fuel dependence and are putting additional strain on health systems. Acknowledging the compounding shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict in Ukraine, and a global energy and cost of living crisis; the global report highlights that we are at a critical juncture, facing a very real danger of countries backsliding on climate commitments in their responses.
The Policy Brief for Canada highlights three key areas where Canada can make the biggest difference to reduce the ever-growing impact of climate change on health:
Future-proof Health Systems
- Establish a national secretariat to liaise with provinces and territories, and with international climate and health networks and resources (such as the WHO Alliance for Transformative Action on Climate and Health), to coordinate the transformation of Canada’s health system into a climate-resilient system that operates within planetary limits.
Build Resilience to Climate Shocks
- Conduct province- and territory-led climate resilience analyses of Canada’s health care systems, and use their findings to improve preparedness for climate-related extreme events and reduce structural and social health inequities.
Honour Equity and Indigenous Approaches
- Accelerate the incorporation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into Canadian law, to honour commitments, improve policy coherence, and enhance the well-being of current and future generations.
- Support the implementation of Bill C-226, An Act respecting the development of a national strategy to assess, prevent and address environmental racism and to advance environmental justice.
The 2022 Report of The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change is a comprehensive yearly analysis produced by 99 experts from 51 institutions and tracks progress on key indicators of the impact of climate change on human health and the world’s efforts to minimize it. The Policy Brief for Canada provides country-specific recommendations by leading domestic experts to highlight areas in which leaders and policy-makers should focus to develop a healthy response to climate change.
The Policy Brief for Canada was co-authored by Finola Hackett, MD, and Claudel Pétrin-Desrosiers, MD, with contributions from Christopher Buse, PhD; Krista Halliday, PhD; Aden Hamza, RN, MScN; Courtney Howard, MD; Deborah McGregor, PhD; and Maya Reshef Kalogirou, RN, PhD.
The Policy Brief for Canada is supported by the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, and the Canadian Public Health Association.
"It's time to talk differently about climate change and health. We know that people in Canada depend on a healthy environment for their well-being. Now is the time to talk about solutions for future generations."
Finola Hackett, MD, CCFP
"The Lancet Countdown report shows us once again that climate action saves lives. We have one collective priority: to move quickly away from fossil fuels in order to improve our health and the health of the ecosystems on which we depend. As health professionals, we have an additional duty: to build resilient health systems in the face of the ecological crisis."
Claudel Pétrin-Desrosiers, MD, CCFP
“We know that the climate crisis is real and has significant consequences to health and healthcare. Decision makers must make this a high priority so we can get to work finding solutions. Adapting to these new realities are an essential part of supporting the ongoing health of Canadians and future proofing our healthcare systems”
Dr. Alika Lafontaine, President, Canadian Medical Association
“The federal government has an opportunity to do much more if we are to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change. Many policies needed to ¬fight climate change will produce immediate health benefits, reduce health-care costs, and improve social cohesion and equity in Canada’s communities.”
Dr. Sylvain Brousseau, President of the Canadian Nurses Association
“The global climate crisis demands immediate and substantive policy changes in Canada. Only through sustained society-wide mobilization are we going to avert a climate disaster for future generations.”
Ian Culbert, Executive Director, Canadian Public Health Association
About the Canadian Medical Association
The Canadian Medical Association leads a national movement with physicians who believe in a better future of health. Our ambition is a sustainable, accessible health system where patients are partners, a culture of medicine that elevates equity, diversity and wellbeing, and supportive communities where everyone has the chance to be healthy. We drive change through advocacy, giving and knowledge sharing – guided by values of collaboration and inclusion.
About the Canadian Nurses Association
CNA is the national and global professional voice of Canadian nursing. Our mission is to advance the nursing profession to improve health outcomes in Canada’s publicly funded, not-for-profit health system. CNA is the only national association that speaks for all types of nurses across all 13 provinces and territories. We represent nurses that are unionized and non-unionized, retired nurses, nursing students, and all categories of nurses (registered nurses, nurse practitioners, licensed and registered practical nurses, and registered psychiatric nurses).