Over the past 8 months, the International Society for Social Pediatrics and Child Health (ISSOP), has presented a series of symposia on mitigating the impact of the climate crisis on children and youth. The multidisciplinary speakers from around the world, including youth, provided a clear and consistent message—there is little hope for a solution without a radical transformation of society, which must begin today. Youth delivered a poignant message, a plea that continues to resonate. The role they suggested that professional child health organizations can play is to provide them a platform to support their efforts, and access to the decision-makers who can make the changes necessary to mitigate the crisis. They didn’t ask us to craft the message, but to help them deliver it.
We have our charge: we must use our collective political and social capital to address the climate crisis in collaboration with youth. Toward this end, ISSOP—in collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the IPA, Invivo, and other organizations will be pursuing the development of a global consortium of child health organizations and societies that can amplify our voices and those of youth to address the unique needs and rights of children and young people in regard to the climate crisis. Ironically, these unique needs and rights have not been well represented to date, as evidenced by the paucity of child health priorities at the upcoming COP-26 meeting.
In preparation for the COP-26 meeting, we will be planning a number of initiatives to engage our members and communities. There will be a bicycle ride from Great Ormond Street to Glasgow that those who live in the UK are encouraged to participate. The organizers of the ride would like others to ride as well—there is a challenge to register a million miles in support. You can register here. In addition, there will be a webinar from the meeting hosted by the riders—we will send the link to you, and we will be circulating sample letters that can be shared with decision makers and media, and a power point presentation that can be presented to medical students, residents and colleagues.
Finally, we bring your attention to the ISSOP-IPA Declaration on Climate Change. The Declaration provides a framework for action that can be implemented immediately, across multiple domains of action. The endorsement of your society and organization is critically important as we move together to mitigate the impact of the crisis on children and young people. The Declaration can be found on the ISSOP and IPA websites and in the Journal of Climate Change and Health.
The climate emergency is an existential threat and we have only a short time to mitigate and limit its effects on children today and into the future. But we do have time if we act urgently. Join us in taking the bold action necessary to make the healthy future our children envision, a reality. Our children know what they need; let’s make it happen.
Jeffrey Goldhagen, M.D., MPH is Professor and Chief, Division of Community and Societal Pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine—Jacksonville, FL. He is also a member of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and President of the International Society for Social Pediatrics and Child Health.