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300,000+ public health professionals call on G7 to speed clean energy shift

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Creative Commons: Number 10, PM joins the other G7 leaders for the start of the Summit at Schloss Elmau, 2015

More than 300,000 doctors, nurses, public health professionals and health advocates from 30 countries are calling on the world’s seven largest economies to accelerate the transition away from coal to save lives ahead of this month’s high level G7 meeting in Japan.

With this summit being one of the first major international gatherings since leaders committed to meaningful climate-action in Paris, the 82 organisations signing the Global Health Statement have outlined the pressing need and huge benefits to both human health and economies of a coal phase out.

This is particularly pertinent for host country Japan, which has plans for 47 new coal-fired power plants at home, and is pushing to export its marginally less polluting “high efficiency” coal technology. Japan is one of the only G7 nations still seriously backing coal, and its plan is expected to result in an extra 10,000 premature deaths according to a new Greenpeace and Kiko Network study.

Key Points

  • Coal is bad for health and bad for the planet. The World Health Organisation has called climate change the greatest threat to global health of the 21st century. Coal impacts health both directly through respiratory and cardiovascular disease in local populations, and indirectly as one of the largest single contributors to climate change. The global response to health emergencies and climate change the G7 plans to discuss will only be increasingly complicated by coal and the increasingly onerous health emergencies it creates via extreme flooding, fires, famine, and infectious diseases.
  • G7 countries must lead on an accelerated coal phase out. To prevent the worst health effects of climate change, all G7 countries need to speed their efforts to phase out coal.  Japan, host of this month’s G7 meeting, has put public health emergencies high on the agenda, but with 47 new coal plants on the drawing board it is undermining its efforts to improve public health. Accelerating the transition away from coal will also create huge economic gains from avoided health impacts. Ontario’s coal phase-out for example, will deliver health savings valued at approximately US$3 billion per year.
  • ‘Efficient coal’ is like ‘healthy cigarettes’. Japan wants to build dozens of new coal plants at home, and sell its marginally less polluting coal technology abroad. This will have disastrous implications for health as it means much more coal burned in the long term. The plants Japan p aims to build at home will cause at least 10,000 premature deaths, and will emit as much toxic air pollution as 21 million passenger cars. Greenpeace notes Japan is already the worst performer among the G7 when it comes to phasing out coal, and if we are to improve health outcomes and have any chance of limiting average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, the only choice with coal is a rapid phase out.

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