Only two days apart, Warsaw is playing host to two major conferences in parallel with COP19. You all know about the first one — the International Coal and Climate Summit starting today. The second was a climate and health summit over the weekend organised by the Global Climate and Health Alliance. Both are seeing involvement from medical students and health professionals, but in dramatically different capacities.
The climate and health event dealt extensively with the health impacts of climate change. Keynote speaker Dr. Liz Hanna, president of the Australian Climate and Health Alliance, described the situation as 'grim, grim and more grim'. Expert speakers from the World Health Organization and a wide range of public health entities around the world spoke to the ways climate action and clean energy can benefit health. The conference also dealt in depth with the negative effects of air pollution, including those of coal, the most polluting of all fossil fuels.
At the same time, there are determined members from the health community who are insisting that we hear the truth about the impacts of coal on parts of the body. The 'People before Coal' protest outside the Coal Summit will cite recent research conducted by the Health and Environment Alliance highlighting that the health cost of coal in Poland alone amounts to over 8 billion Euros, and causes around 3000 premature deaths every year.
Well, it seems that the Polish government, while hosting the Coal and Climate Summit, couldn’t quite make it to the climate and health summit. Then, again, this is entirely consistent with the host country's actions during COP19 as a whole. But the people of Poland know better which side their interests are on.