Canadian Medical Association

The devastating effects of climate change have become facts of life in Canada. This year alone, deadly heat waves and dangerous wildfires in B.C. have cost lives, homes and communities.

In the coming days, all eyes will be on the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow — a crucial opportunity for world leaders to take meaningful action on climate change.

Ahead of this vital conference, the CMA and seven other Canadian health care organizations collectively sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, urging his government to step up and ensure Canada does its share to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The CMA also joined more than 300 health organizations around the world in signing an open letter to all COP26 delegates, warning that the climate crisis is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. In addition, the CMA signed the São Paulo Declaration on Planetary Health, which garnered support from more than 250 organizations to create a more equitable and resilient post-pandemic world.

These actions were reinforced by the 2021 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change Policy Brief for Canada, co-authored by the CMA. The report highlights the harmful effects of climate change on health and health systems, and examines issues including the government’s relationship with the fossil fuel industry, adaptation measures and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“The harmful health effects of climate change have already been established. We need governments to take bold action now to minimize and mitigate the effects of climate change and to ensure a healthier planet for the future.” — Dr. Katharine Smart, CMA president

Tackling climate change has been a long-standing priority for CMA members. In an October 2020 survey, more than 75% of respondents agreed climate change will have a more frequent or severe effect on human health, such as physical and mental harm from forest fires, storms and floods, and illness due to reduced outdoor air quality. 

With that in mind, the CMA’s work to tackle climate change has included a focus on responsible investing. Earlier this year, the CMA passed a fossil fuel divestment motion requiring that the CMA and its subsidiaries divest their investments from energy companies whose primary business relies on fossil fuels. The CMA also set a target to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in its investment portfolio overseen by CMA Investco.  

Climate change and its devastating effects on health is a priority issue for the CMA, which looks forward to working with the medical community, patients and other collaborators to identify a healthy path forward.  

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