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01 Dec 2017

Hollywood actor and former Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has used a United Nations gathering in Germany to describe fossil fuels as a public health hazard.

At a sideline event of the 12-day UN climate talks in Bonn in November, Mr Schwarzenegger delivered a well-received speech that issued a challenge to world leaders.

A long-time outspoken environmental activist, the star of such blockbusters as The Terminator, Total Recall, Collateral Damage and Predator, urged governments everywhere to start labeling fossil fuels with a public health warning.

That health warning should state, he said, that their use could cause illness and death.

He praised the World Health Organization (WHO) for delivering on a 164-nation tobacco control deal in 2003 that resulted in health warnings on tobacco products.

But he added that a similar deal could be reached with regards to oil and coal products.

“Wouldn’t it be great now if they could make the same pact with the rest of the world to go and say, ‘let’s label another thing that is killing you – which is fossil fuels’,” he said.

“If you went to a gas station, it says that thing you’re pumping into your car is killing you.

“Pollution kills more than nine million people a year. Over 300,000 people will die over the course of this conference. That’s the population of Bonn.

“This is a massive tragedy. And as depressing and terrifying as it is, we are not talking about it enough,” he said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on conference delegates talk about building climate resilient health facilities in their home nations by 2013, which is a stipulation of the Paris Agreement.

He added that more investment was needed in the health sector.

“Climate change strikes at the heart of what it means to be human,” Dr Ghebreyesus said.

“Climate change is not a political argument in Fiji and other island nations. It’s everyday reality – whether that’s in the form of destructive storms, rising sea levels or increased risk of infectious disease.

“These communities need assistance to cope with a world that is changing in front of them.”

The Paris Agreement global climate treaty aims to limit rising temperatures to below 2˚C by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Fiji presided over the Bonn conference and was also the beneficiary of an initiative launched by WHO and the UN climate secretariat aiming to triple international financial support for action on climate-related health issues in the developing small island nations.

CHRIS JOHNSON

 


Published: 01 Dec 2017