Government’s relationship with the fossil fuel industry must change: new report by the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change
Subsidies and supports for the fossil fuel sector need to end now according to the authors of the Policy Brief for Canada of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change. The more than US $14 billion in public funds are better spent on creating a just transition to a clean energy economy and supporting adaptation.
The climate crisis requires urgent, society-wide mobilization to provide children born today with the livable environment and functioning health systems they will need to thrive in a climate-changed world, says the Canada-focused policy brief issued alongside the latest international Lancet report.
The 2021 report of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change is a comprehensive yearly analysis produced by 120 experts from 35 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.
Published today, 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:
Government’s relationship with the fossil fuel industry must change
- Eliminate all direct and indirect fossil fuels subsidies. Redirect that financial support to healthy, renewable energy infrastructure via a just transition that supports workers and communities, and supporting climate and health adaptation programs.
- Remove fossil fuel influence from policymaking. Institute a 1:1 ratio of meetings of federal government representatives with non-profit and profit-based groups, with publicly available presentations and notes, and an end to closed-door meetings on public policies with fossil fuel industry representatives.
Canada needs to prepare and adapt in order to save lives and reduce long-term financial costs
- Establish and adequately fund a new national body with the authority to work between silos to develop a comprehensive National Climate Adaptation Strategy that includes risk assessments and adaptation planning.
- Recognise that both adaptation and mitigation can save money by saving lives and improving health. Accordingly, at all governmental levels, fund, conduct and publicize cost-benefit analysis calculations for climate change policies that include quantification of health impacts in collaboration with health ministries.
Many measures can improve health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions immediately, including increasing urban greenness
- Increase and preserve green space in urban centers to reach a high level of greenness, prioritising low-income neighbourhoods. Urban municipalities must align their green space and climate change strategies, supported by the proposed National Climate Adaptation Strategy, and in collaboration with public health, city planners and community groups.
The Policy Brief for Canada -- written by Finola Hackett, MD; Claudel Pétrin-Desrosiers, MD; Deborah McGregor, PhD; Christopher Buse, PhD; Courtney Howard, MD, Ashley Chisholm, MSc, and Angela Carter, PhD -- is supported by both the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Public Health Association.
Overall, the 2021 Lancet Countdown reports that:
- In 2020, up to of 19% of the global land surface was affected by extreme drought in any given month, a value that had not exceeded 13% between 1950 and 1999.
- Climate change is driving an increase in the frequency, intensity, and duration of drought events, threatening water security, sanitation, and food productivity, and increasing the risk of wildfires and exposure to pollutants. The five years with the most areas affected by extreme drought have all occurred since 2015. The Horn of Africa, a region impacted by recurrent extreme droughts and food insecurity, was one of the most affected areas in 2020.
- Climate change threatens to accelerate food insecurity, which affected 2 billion people in 2019. Rising temperatures shorten the time in which plants reach maturity, meaning smaller yields and an increased strain on our food systems. Maize has seen a 6% decrease in crop yield potential, wheat a 3% decrease and rice a 1.8% decrease, compared to 1981 – 2010 levels.
- Average sea surface temperature has increased in the territorial waters of nearly 70% (95 out of 136) of coastal countries analysed, compared to 2003-2005. This reflects an increasing threat to their marine food security. Worldwide 3.3 billion people depend on marine food.
- In 2021 the World Health Organisation found just over half of countries that answered to the Health and Climate Change Global Survey (37 out of 70) had a national health and climate change strategy in place, a similar proportion to 2018. Nearly three-quarters of countries surveyed said finances prevented them developing such a strategy, with others citing a lack of skilled people, being restricted by COVID and lacking research and evidence.
- Globally, climate change adaptation funding directed at health systems represents just 0.3% of total climate change adaptation funding.
“We have an opportunity not only to invest more efficiently, but more importantly, to improve health and save lives -- by supporting a just energy transition and healthy climate adaptation.”
Finola Hackett, MD, CCFP
“This report highlights some life-saving solutions that can be implemented by different levels of government to tackle the climate crisis. Not only must we adapt quickly and efficiently, we must also urgently transition away from fossil fuels.”
Claudel Pétrin-Desrosiers, MD, CCFP
“Addressing structural and systemic inequities of the most vulnerable to climate change in Canada requires transformative and just climate policy. Protecting, conserving, restoring nature in urban areas saves lives and thus forms a vital adaptation approach.”
Deborah McGregor, PhD, York University
“The devastating effects of climate change on health and health systems have already been established. We need governments to take bold action now to minimize and mitigate the impacts of climate change. One pandemic is enough.”
Dr. Katharine Smart, President, Canadian Medical 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 is the national voice of the medical profession. Our focus is on creating strong and accessible health systems, fostering well-being and diversity in medical culture, and ensuring every person in Canada has equal opportunity to be healthy. In partnership with physicians, medical learners, patients and others, we advance these goals through advocacy, knowledge sharing and granting.