Health professionals have called upon world leaders to develop and implement a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, laying a legally binding global plan to protect the health and lives of current and future generations, by phasing out fossil fuels worldwide, in a rapid and equitable manner, to limit global warming to 1.5 ºC.
1-What objectives does this treaty include?
- 1.To end expansion of any new fossil fuel infrastructure and production by immediately ending activity and investment across all new or expanded fossil fuel exploration, extraction and building of infrastructure, in line with the best available science.
- 2.To phase out existing production and use of fossil fuels in a fair and equitable manner in line with the 1.5 ºC global climate goal. To address existing inequity, health professionals call on high-income countries to provide financial, technological and other support to low- and middle-income countries in the move away from fossil fuels, ensuring the transition reduces poverty rather than exacerbating it..
- 3.To fast-track real solutions and ensure a fair transition for every worker, community and country by creating a healthy and sustainable future for all. A fair transition must respect indigenous rights and the rights of local communities.
What would this Treaty be like?What would this Treaty be like?
The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty proposed by health professionals would be an evidence-based international agreement to control a category of substances known to be harmful to health since the health risks associated with fossil fuels are numerous.
What are these risks associated with burning fossil fuels?
Air pollution, mainly from burning fossil fuels, is causing more than seven million premature deaths each year. It also contributes to cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions and cancers. In addition, wildfires, which are becoming more intense and common due to climate change, add to this burden. The climate crisis, largely caused by burning fossil fuels, is a threat to health and healthcare systems. On the other hand, global warming creates the ideal conditions for the transmission of food- and waterborne diseases, and the spread of vector-borne diseases, as well as increasing the risk of heat-related illness and deaths.
Other consequences of climate change include droughts, floods, extreme weather events and sea level rise, which disrupt livelihoods, pollute water, compromise food security, damage infrastructure and force migration, especially for populations living in small islands, coastal regions and low-lying areas.
Extreme weather events, on the other hand, disrupt global medical supply chains and devastate healthcare facilities, severely affecting health workers’ ability to provide health care. Climate change is seriously affecting mental health, exacerbating anxiety and depression, especially in young people.
What other human and occupational health risks are associated with burning fossil fuels?
Residential proximity to oil and gas extraction has been found to increase the incidence of respiratory diseases and poor birth outcomes, and is potentially associated with other health harms. Living near coalmines is associated with a greater risk of lung disease and cancers. Extraction-related light and noise pollution, water use and pollution, ecosystem degradation and habitat, livelihood and community disruption also have a negative impact on health. Proximity to petrochemical refineries and exposure to facilities manufacturing other fossil fuel-derived products are associated with an increased risk of illnesses, including childhood asthma and hematological malignant neoplasms. Transportation of fossil fuels has a history of spills and explosions with acute and chronic health impacts for communities and cleanup workers. Safe disposal of fossil fuel waste remains a challenge, as waster products contain substances with known impacts on health, including heavy metals and toxic chemicals.
Furthermore, workers at extraction sites and in refineries face additional health risks including severe respiratory diseases and highly malignant forms of cancer, as well as injuries from fires and explosions.
What is expected from this Treaty?
Phasing out fossil fuel use and extraction provides an opportunity to improve health and address inequities in health. Expanding access to energy through distributed, resilient and affordable carbon-free renewable energy systems will bring benefits to health and will maximize energy savings and efficiency. Phasing out fossil fuels would prevent 3.6 million deaths due to air pollution worldwide every year.
Health professionals undergo efforts to build sustainable and low-carbon health systems, at both national and institutional levels; however, to protect the health of all we must make greater efforts collectively to rapidly reduce emissions.
Further information at: https://fossilfueltreaty.org/
Amor Escoz Roldán.
Senior Environmental Health Technician,
Environmental Science Specialist, Environmental Educator and PhD in Education Sciences.