Director’s Note on Opportunities for Climate and Health Advocates

February 2021

Dear Advocates,

We have entered a new era of opportunity for advancing the cause of health in response to climate change. It is now breathtakingly clear that the federal Executive and Legislative branches of our government are making — or planning to make — a concerted effort to address climate change this year. The Biden Administration has issued a series of executive orders to “tackle the climate crisis at home and abroad,” beginning with a commitment to “to promote a significant increase in global ambition” by rejoining the Paris agreement between 195 countries to make national commitments to reach net zero. As you know, rejoining Paris was the first goal of our Call to Action for Climate, Health and Equity. In addition, the orders commit to pursuing “climate smart” agriculture and expanding carbon sequestration through forests and conservation aided by a “Civilian Climate Corps Initiative.”

In addition, the Administration is taking a “whole of government approach” to addressing the issue. It is directing each federal agency to develop a plan to “increase the resilience of its facilities and operations to the impacts of climate change”. While “resilience of facilities” most certainly means strengthening the capacity of healthcare delivery to respond to climate impacts, it also means that every Federal agency — from Transportation to Agriculture to Treasury — must put the effective response to climate change and delivering environmental justice at the forefront of its agenda.

In Congress, key Committee Chairs have announced their intent to address climate change through legislation that addresses the same areas of policy as the Executive Orders: “rebuilding our infrastructure” for job growth and a sustainable economy, pursuing “carbon pollution-free electricity and clean zero-emission vehicles” while creating good-paying union jobs, and stimulating clean energy industries.”

Now that the Executive and Legislative branches have shared their ambitions to make a difference, we can seize our chance to ensure our trusted health voices are heard to shape and champion the policies that bring these ambitions to life. We are poised to do just that. We now have climate health advocates are in nearly every state and a rapidly growing set of states with organized Clinicians for Climate Action networks. We are also strengthening our capacity at the national level by bringing on our first Director of Advocacy to coordinate our efforts and ensure consistency in our messaging. In advocacy, timing is important when weighing in on legislative opportunity. We have acquired new software to facilitate timely contact and relationship-building  between our advocates and both Congressional and local representatives.

And we have some very concrete good news to report. One of the first bills introduced on health and climate is an outgrowth of (published) work by Consortium Steering Committee member and Ob-Gyn, Nate Denicola, Ob-Gyn Bruce Bekkar, and pediatrician Susan E. Pacheco. The bill is endorsed by ACOG and provides grant funding to protect pregnant women in the face of climate change. It was introduced by Representative Lauren Underwood from Illinois, who is also an RN! It seeks to address the rise in maternal mortality that is notable, especially for African American women.

We will be letting our leaders know through greatly increased contact how valuable this opportunity is to protect the people we take care of and prevent increasingly destructive climate damage. We want them to know that, in fact, by focusing on health and equity, climate solutions will not only solve a long-term threat, but will immediately deliver better health, more jobs and an economy where everyone wins.

With excitement and thanks for all you do,