DOH backs call to phase out fossil fuels


Posted at Sep 20 2022 05:28 PM

Climate activists stage a rally in front of the Asian Development Bank in Mandaluyong City on June 15, 2022, calling for a transition to 100 percent renewable energy before 2050. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Department of Health on Tuesday expressed support to a proposal urging governments to establish a binding international treaty on phasing out fossil fuels.

According to DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire, the use of fossil fuels poses a threat to human health.

"We know that this is harmful to the environment, as well as harmful to our population," she said in a press briefing. "Year in and year out, we see a rise in respiratory illnesses here in the country."

Burning fossil fuels is among primary contributors to air pollution, studies have shown.

In the Philippines, air pollution has resulted to a number of respiratory diseases, Vergeire said.

"One of the top leading causes of illnesses dito sa ating bansa ay respiratory in nature," she said. Among them is asthma in children and chronic pulmonary diseases in elderly.

"So, we are one with the WHO (World Health Organization) in this campaign for us to be able to have an action plan or a national plan against the minimal use of fossil fuel in the country," Vergeire said.

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Around 200 health organizations and more than 1,400 health professionals on Wednesday called for governments to develop and implement a legally binding mechanism that would immediately stop all future fossil fuel expansion, as well as phasing out existing production.

A letter proposing the "fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty" said it could work similarly to the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control -- except this time the harmful controlled substances would be coal, oil and gas. 

The WHO was among the health organizations from around the world who signed the letter.

Air pollution, mostly from burning fossil fuels, has been linked to the deaths of 7 million people a year.

Climate change has also spurred more frequent and severe extreme weather events, which can have a lasting impact on health even beyond those initially affected by the disasters, including smoke from wildfires and diseases spread after floods. 

The letter also pointed to the heightened health risks faced by the workers who extract, refine, transport and distribute fossil fuels and related products.

Phasing out fossil fuels would prevent 3.6 million deaths a year from air pollution alone, the letter said, adding that "the same cannot be said for proposed false solutions, such as carbon capture and storage". 

— With a report from Agence France-Presse