Health workers around the world have joined together to deliver an open letter to G20 leaders urging them to implement post-pandemic recovery plans that prioritize human and environmental health—with key signatories representing more than 40 million individual medical professionals.
The 200-plus organizations that signed the letter make up “about half of the global medical work force,” writes the Guardian. The letter, which delivers a climate- and life-saving prescription for stimulus packages, was drafted with significant input from both scientific and medical experts, to ensure that post-pandemic recovery sets in place meaningful and permanent programs to correct both environmental degradation and the erosion of public health.
“We have witnessed first-hand how fragile communities can be when their health, food security, and freedom to work are interrupted by a common threat,” the signatories write, outlining the cruel lessons of the pandemic. “The layers of this ongoing tragedy are many, and magnified by inequality and underinvestment in public health systems. We have witnessed death, disease, and mental distress at levels not seen for decades.”
Connecting the dots between such tragic events and the still-dominant global energy system, the letter’s signatories “also want reforms to fossil fuel subsidies, with public support shifted toward renewable energy, which they say would make for cleaner air, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and help to spur economic growth of nearly US$100 trillion in the next three decades,” the Guardian writes.
Pandemic lockdowns have caused global daily CO2 emissions to drop roughly 17% but, should fossil business-as-usual resume, the total emissions drop for 2020 will only be around 4% compared to 2019—a far cry from the 7.6% reduction required each year for the next decade to meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement.
“Only by investing in both health care and the environment can we create a sustainable future,” said Annette Kennedy, president of the International Council of Nurses. But the pandemic has provided humanity with “a unique opportunity to make changes that will benefit the planet and all the people on it.”