Shweta Narayan, Health Care Without Harm’s International climate and health campaigner, and Dr. Laalitha Surapaneni, a physician at the University of Minnesota, United States, explain in an editorial published today in PLOS's blog Speaking of Medicine and Health why health-based planning and accessible health care must be at the core of a truly just transition away from fossil fuels.
Emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels are one of the major drivers of climate change. As the world struggles to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, discussions are underway on how to transition away from fossil fuels in a just way, especially for the most impacted communities.
“The [just transition] framework must actively work to ensure that the burdens of pollution, health hazards, and economic inequalities are lifted from communities that have historically borne the brunt of fossil fuel exploitation,” explain Narayan and Surapaneni in the article.
However, there’s no ‘one size fits all approach’ to just transition, as regional and local contexts will determine the approaches. A health-centered just transition approach must prioritize environmental protection and the well-being of workers, communities, and vulnerable populations.
According to the authors, a socially just transition “prioritizes healthcare accessibility, community well-being, challenges gender norms, ensures pay parity, contests power structures, and addresses mental health impacts. Anticipating dislocation and migration, it invests in low-carbon healthcare infrastructure, reducing emissions, and promoting local health solutions. [...] Embracing health as a medium for social justice, the Just Transition framework becomes a powerful tool for reshaping societies and economies toward inclusivity and resilience.”
More: Just transition for healthy people on a healthy planet (December 2022).
This position paper by Health Care Without Harm outlines six principles for just transition:
- A Just Transition provides alternative employment and adequate training and assures rate retention and the right to unionize for all workers migrating from polluting industries
- A Just Transition protects people’s right to health, recognizing that adequate wage and social support but even more so, a clean environment is integral to realizing this right.
- A Just Transition prioritizes people’s social, physical, and mental well-being and leaves no one behind.
- A Just Transition must include a transition in the health care sector and invests in low-carbon, climate-resilient public health care infrastructure and services that are anchored by communities and accessible to all.
- A Just Transition revises the distortions of the fossil fuel industry on culture and history especially those of racial or ethnic minority peoples, resources the rebuilding of that which was destroyed by its grip and repairs historical injuries.
- A Just Transition recognizes the pitfalls of extractive culture, providing means to explore decentralized, diverse, low-carbon, climate-resilient economies centered around population health and health care.