Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Diarmid Campbell Lendrum and Dr. Samantha Pegoraro will join a group of pediatricians and other health professionals as they cycle from Geneva, Switzerland to Napoli, Italy to “ride for their lives”.
Departing from Geneva, Switzerland on October 18, the 1500km ride will be joined by health experts from around the world to raise awareness of the climate and air pollution crisis and its devastating impact on our children’s health and future. They will deliver the recipe letter for a healthy climate and a call for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty at the UN Climate Change Conference COP27 in Egypt.
“I look forward to getting on my bike for ‘Ride for their Lives’ to highlight the health impact of the climate crisis and the deaths caused by air pollution every 5 seconds,” said Dr. Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, Head of WHO Unit, Department for Environment, Climate Change and Health. WHO calls on governments to lead a fair, equitable and swift phase-out of fossil fuels to achieve a clean energy future that protects our planet and ensures longer, healthier lives.”
The Healthy Climate Prescription Letter, signed by organizations representing 46 million health workers worldwide, calls on all governments and world leaders to “avoid the looming health catastrophe by limiting global warming to 1.5°C and putting human health and equity at the heart of all climate change mitigation and adaptation.” Demands for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty from WHO, hundreds of health facilities and over 1400 health workers urge governments to urgently commit to a legally binding plan to phase out fossil fuels Agree to exploration and production of fossil fuels to end global dependence on fossil fuels.
Along with climate change, air pollution is one of the greatest environmental threats to human health. Almost 99% of the world’s population lives in places where air pollution exceeds WHO guidelines. UNICEF estimates that around a billion children – almost half of all children worldwide – are at “extremely high risk” of the effects of the climate crisis.
“Everyone has the right to clean air,” said Dr. Samantha Pegoraro, Technical Officer, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health. “Children are disproportionately affected as their lungs and brains are still developing. Poorer children are most vulnerable, compounding the impact of social inequalities.”
“Actions speak louder than words, we must reduce air pollution and promote sustainable transport, active mobility and physical activity.” Added Pegoraro, who also participates in the Geneva to Aigle drive.
Air pollution, which contributes to respiratory diseases such as asthma, lung cancer and heart disease, kills an estimated 7 million people worldwide each year. The WHO recently tightened guidelines on air pollution, describing it as “on par with other major global health risks such as unhealthy diets and tobacco smoking”.
The causes of air pollution are often the same as the causes of the climate emergency – most air pollution comes from the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, transport and industry. Since the causes are largely the same, the solutions can also be the same – expansion of renewable energies, electromobility, public transport and more walking and cycling.
About a ride for her life
Ride for Their Lives was launched in October 2021 when children’s hospital workers and healthcare leaders cycled from Geneva via London to COP26 in Glasgow. They delivered both the Recipe Letter for a Healthy Climate and the WHO COP26 Special Report on Climate Change and Health to government delegates of the COP26 and COP27 Presidencies. Building on its success, the campaign has been rolled out globally this year, with many drives taking place in the UK and abroad in the run-up to COP27. Riders are fully self-funded and show commitment to inspire action.
The ride departs from the Palais de Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on the morning of October 18 with WHO before heading to Aigle and then to Brig, also in Switzerland. Healthcare providers then cycle through Italy to Naples, connecting hospitals along the way.