Health warning on fossil fuels

IMAGINE if fuel stations came with a health warning similar to that on cigarette packaging which tells people that the use of fossil fuels could be harmful to one’s health.

Issuing that as a challenge to the World Health Organization, the former governor of California in the US, Arnold Schwarzenegger impressed the health agency and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the organisers of COP23, when he made a call for more focus on the health impacts to human beings.

“Pollution kills more than nine million people per year,” he told a packed meeting room at the Bonn Zone.

According to the Hollywood star, pollution kills three times as many people as HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

“It killed 50 times as many people as all of the wars, murders, suicides and every form of violence. Fifty times more! This is a massive tragedy and as depressing and terrifying as it is, we are not talking about it enough,” Mr Schwarzenegger said.

“We must talk about it more and we must talk about it over and over. See in California, we can already see the benefits of this approach.

“This is a massive tragedy — and as depressing and terrifying as it is, we are not talking about it enough.”

Mr Schwarzenegger suggested telling customers at petrol stations that “what you pump into your tank may kill you”, and plastering oil tankers driving along highways with messages that their contents are dangerous to health.

Eager to drive home his point, Mr Schwarzenegger said allegations by fossil fuel lobbyists that stronger environmental protection legislation would translate into reduced economic growth had proven untrue.

According to Mr Schwarzenegger, California has the strongest environmental laws and yet enjoys 5 per cent economic growth, more than double that of the entire country, which he says is 2 per cent.

He was a guest speaker at the launch of a project between the WHO, UN Climate Change secretariat and the Fijian presidency COP23.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of WHO, said the vision of the project was to help create climate resilient health systems in all small island developing states by 2030.

The initiative has four main goals — to amplify the voice of SIDS health leaders, to gather the evidence to promote investment in climate change and health, to promote preparedness and prevention policies and to triple international financial support for climate and health in SIDS.

“People living in small island developing states are on the frontline of extreme weather events, rising sea levels and increased risk of infectious disease,” said Dr Tedros said.

“We owe it to these people to do everything we can to help them prepare for the future that is already washing up on their shores.”

Speaking at the same event, COP23 president and Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said the Pacific and other parts of the world were equally vulnerable to climate events “which put pressure on our health system”.

“That is why the initiative launching today is so welcomed and so important,” Mr Bainimarama said.

He stressed the importance of investing in infrastructure to make health systems stronger and more agile in the face of growing disaster threats

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