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Taking the reins of the white horse of climate change
  1. G K Jensen
  1. Executive Director, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Brussels, Belgium
  1. Ms G K Jensen, Executive Director, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), 28 Boulevard Charlemagne, 1000 Brussels, Belgium; genon{at}

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Why human health and equity must become the central goals of climate change policy at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2009.

Until recently, the poster for climate change has been the plight of the “polar bear” teetering on a melting iceberg. However, since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) won the Nobel Peace Prize for their Fourth Assessment Report1 (, many more people recognise that the polar bear is just one species that will need to adapt to the effects of climate change.

According to a joint report from the European Environment Agency, the Joint Research Centre and the World Health Organization published in September 2008, an urgent need now exists to increase awareness and action on the effects on human health of climate change ( In particular, they call for activities that highlight the needs of vulnerable people, such as the elderly, children and disadvantaged populations.2 A similar message can be found in the findings of the IPCC report. A popularised version of its content would indicate that it is not the planet that is in peril but human beings. The planet has the ability to go on with or without us. The new rallying cry must centre on how …

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  • Competing interests: None.