We are calling the Heads of G20 states and G20 governments for action:

Please act now for human health and choose clean and sustainable energy resources!

The heads of the 20 biggest economies of the world are coming together in Antalya on 15 – 16 November 2015 for the “G20 Leaders’ Summit”.

While the number of innocent people dying due to violence, scarcity of food, drought and infectious diseases increases every day, G20 leaders are coming together in Turkey in a world where inequalities are climbing and where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

Scientific researches demonstrate that the climate change and air pollution are among of the most important public health problems of our era. In fact, the threats that climate change presents to human health have reached alarming proportions that they may now hinder the global advancement that has been made in the field of human development and health within the last fifty years. Thus, the fight against climate change is one of the most important and highest-priority challenges that must be addressed in order to improve the global health in our century.

In this context, a rapid phase-out of coal from the global energy mix would reduce air pollution, and be a significant step taken towards protection of cardiovascular and respiratory health. It is a scientifically proven fact that air pollution causes respiratory dysfunctions, leading to chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and an increase in cancer cases and premature deaths. It must also be considered that air pollutants cause harm to potable and irrigation water sources and flora by means of rain, resulting in micro-climate changes.

The World Health Organization underlines that “air pollution is a cause of global health inequities, affecting in particular women, children and old persons, as well as low-income populations”, the most disadvantaged groups in our societies. The World Health Organization also highlights that supporting energy efficiency and extended use of clean and renewable energy will have health-related benefits.
We would like to remind once again that G20 countries had promised in 2009 to end fossil fuel subsidies. However, very little progress has been made so far regarding this commitment, and G20 countries have continued to observe the benefits of global companies instead of protecting the public health. While global companies’ revenues increased meanwhile, governments which simply stood by and watched the inequalities did nothing but allowed profit maximization, which in turn drags the whole world in a disaster.

Despite all these highlights, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) data, governments all around the world spend 5.3 trillion USD every year from public budget, upon request by international companies, for promoting fossil fuels. Coal stands out as the fossil fuel that receives the biggest share of these subsidies. Unfortunately, the resources allocated for the promotion of fossil fuels are more than the total health budgets of all governments around the world.

On the other hand, the support and subsidies given by Turkey, which is G20 term president this year, for generating energy from coal are a serious concern for public health. According to IMF, the subsidies provided in Turkey for coal in 2015 have reached 2.8% of the country’s gross national product, and stood at 24.2 billion US dollars. Turkey has become the third biggest investor country all over the world after China and Indian in generating power through coal-fired power plants. Today, in addition to more than twenty existing coal-fired thermal power plants in Turkey, more than eighty new thermal power plants are planned to be constructed. Unfortunately, these new thermal power plants are planned to be constructed in areas which are already exposed to serious air pollution caused by the existing thermal power plants and where air pollutants cannot be measured extensively and at multiple points (e.g. Western Black Sea Region). Promoting the construction of these new planned coal-fired thermal power plants is a non-scientific approach, which totally disregards the public health.

If the number of coal-fired thermal power plants increases in the near future, the health burden to be caused by the coal-fired power plants in Turkey will also increase at a growing speed. It should be noted that coal-fired thermal power plants which are currently operating in Turkey are responsible for almost ten thousand deaths and hundred thousands of applications made to health institutions every year, as well as an annual economic burden of 3.6 billion Euros.

In the light of the foregoing, as scientists, professional associations and non-governmental organizations, we strongly condemn Turkey’s “Rush into Coal!” strategy, which aims to increase companies’ profits, and call the political governments to act for creating a healthy energy future. In this regard, as the advocates of the public’s right to health, we defend that G20 governments should, as a sign of sincerity in the struggle against climate change, adopt the principle that public health is more important than all kinds of industrialization movements and global and national companies’ profits. On the other hand, we highlight that nuclear energy is not an alternative to fossil fuels, and that it is mandatory for the future of the mankind to sustain the nature’s integrity in which also human is involved, and shift to renewable energy resources and energy efficiency If all human beings have their fundamental human rights to “live healthy” and “breathe clean air”, G20 governments must undertake adequate initiatives targeting the promotion of efficient energy use, increase the share of renewable energy resources in generation of energy, and give up constructing coal-fired thermal power plants, in order to ensure that these human rights are enjoyed by everyone.

We, the undersigned health, medical and environmental organizations, believe that it is critical to stop the support and subsidies provided for fossil fuels, particularly coal, in order to protect citizens’ health and eliminate the social and economic inequalities resulting from climate change and air pollution.

In the light of the new evidence that has emerged regarding the threats of climate change and air pollution to human health, we urgently and persistently call particularly the government of the Republic of Turkey and you, as the leaders of the world’s biggest 20 economies, to give up the construction of new coal-fired thermal power plants and create a clear road map for stopping fossil fuel incentives in the G20 Leaders’ Summit to be held in Antalya this week, and to take leadership in adoption of a binding climate agreement that will serve the interests of the society at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris in December.

Right to Clean Air Platform in Turkey