Success Stories & Future Vision

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Success Stories & Future Vision

Thank you to all the Conversation Leaders for their time and commitment to taking part in this important conversation. Please take a moment to learn about the conversation leaders by clicking on their profile photos. Thank you!

Below is a list of questions to serve as a framework for the discussion in this thread:

  • Share strategies and steps your organization used to successfully integrate health and climate change into policies or programs.
  • Moving forward from the Paris Agreement (UN climate change agreement), what steps should be taken to continue the success of the health and climate movement?

I had the great privilege to speak at several events during COP 21 in Paris. Most remarkable insights for me were the following

...The Popes boldness and the US Presidents willingness to stand up to congressional critics were both very important

....The mood in the public and private areas at COP21 and in the many many meetings across the city was we cant wait for the governments...we need to  act

....The western Europe and North America countries where saying we are all in this...lets work on this together. The rest of the world was saying...

.... "hmmmmm seems like you caused most of about you fix it and we help"

...on the other hand ...the general tone was the same from most countries, big business, NGOs, indigenous people,....this is very important let's act quote was attributed to a  very thoughtful Saudi Leader who was speaking to a group of oil rich states....

            " The Stone age did not end because we ran out of stones"

Successful work with Allina Health and Abbott Northwestern

During 2015, Fresh Energy worked successfully with a group of Minnesota health professionals, most of them recently retired and others who are practicing professionals. Their goals were to educate a broad base of health professionals about the many links between climate change and health, and to be helpful in moving forward on climate policy action, including at the state legislature and in the development of the state's Clean Power Plan, the most important U.S. commitment in the Paris Agreement.

Toward those ends, the group first developed a Continuing Medical Education day-long course, and secured sponsorship by Allina Health and Abbott Northwestern Hospital, together with other partners. The CME was held in November and drew 120 participants. Building on that base, the group's next project was to develop and deliver a sign-on letter in support of strong state policy on climate and clean energy action, that was delivered this month to the entire MN legislature with 139 health organization and individual signers, together representing over 80 percent of the practicing family physicians in the state.

I would love to discuss this initiative and best practices we've identified based on our work, this week in this forum. 


successful sponsorship

This sounds great, and similar to something we'd love to do in New Zealand... gaining funding has been one of the most difficult challenges for us. Finding sources of philanthropic funding at the moment is extremely difficult so we rely entirely on small member donations and the voluntary time of our members. Perhaps we need to look abroad for sources of funding?


Despite setting bold goals, getting a huge amount of press and great success in pushing down our waste stream and green house gas numbers, we completely failed at getting private philanthropic support. Surprisingly, despite the political rhetoric and rancor ....we did  compete for and get significant federal and some state support for infrastructure. Our message has been to look for support, but build a plan that is competitive and sustainable on its own, if you get support it expands more quickly, if not, you are still rolling

Stand-alone health professional voices: best practice success


Take a look below at our most recent project, led by Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate. Their specific goal to generate a broad, deep sign-on letter to urge Minnesota state legislators to implement the Clean Power Plan without delay, to secure health benefits, was realized with 139 signatories, including mainstream health organizations. The participation of those state-based organizations was made possible by smart outreach from well-respected health leaders in the state. We recommend that health professionals lead on climate policy projects, and remain distinct from environmental voices, to ensure that their considerable science-based expertise in their communities makes the greatest possible impact.



Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate


To Minnesota’s Senators and Representatives:                   March 14, 2016

We are Minnesota physicians, nurses, public health professionals and students dedicated to the best possible health of our patients and our communities. We are members of health care organizations and institutions located throughout Minnesota. As such we are writing to call your attention to important opportunities to improve health outcomes and reduce the costs of health care in Minnesota.

There is ample documentation that carbon and methane emissions from coal burned for electricity and oil burned for transportation are driving global warming, a process that is already damaging Minnesota’s forests, lakes and wildlife, contributing to expensive and dangerous weather extremes, and promoting the spread of infectious diseases. Additionally these fossil fuels are responsible for the emission of dangerous pollutants – e.g. nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, mercury and volatile organic compounds – into our air and waters that increase the risks and costs of heart and lung disease, heat related illnesses, allergies and asthma.

With these considerations in mind we are asking you, our elected representatives, to:

·       Support the work of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in developing our state’s plan to implement the federal Clean Power Plan. The Agency’s work with stakeholders has been open, inclusive and transparent. The result will be a plan designed to meet the standards of the national Clean Power Plan and cost-effectively reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants.

·       Enhance the MN Renewable Energy Standard, increasing the goal to 40% renewables by 2030. We are on track to meet the existing 25% by 2025 standard. With planned coal plant retirements and lower costs of renewable energy the enhanced goal is well within reach.

·       Increase the MN Energy Efficiency Standard from 1.5% to 2% (as recommended by the Environmental Quality Board in 2014). Reducing energy demand and wasteful use is the most cost-effective means of lowering emissions and meeting state obligations under the Clean Power Plan. Clearly the best way to save consumers’ money and reduce pollution is to reduce the amount of energy we consume.

These measures will contribute to the health and safety of Minnesotans while adding more new jobs to a burgeoning clean energy industry. As Minnesota health care providers, institutions and businesses we urge our Legislators to take decisive action to secure a safe clean energy future for our state.


Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate



Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments

American Lung Association in Minnesota

Goodhue County Medical Society

Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians

Minnesota Black Nurses Association

Minnesota Organization of Registered Nurses

Minnesota Public Health Association

Minnesota Society of Neurological Sciences

Ridgeview Medical Center, Waconia MN

School of Nursing, St. Olaf College

Twin Cities Medical Society

University of Minnesota Global Health Student Advisory Board

Zumbro Valley Medical Society


Repetition is key

Successfully integrating climate and health into policies and programs is certainly no easy task. We even say that we passed the road through Paris, not to it, because COP21 is definitely not the end of it all. The real battleground is at home, in our home countries and communities.

Perhaps one strategy, or principle rather, that I can contribute to the list is just being repetitive, or consistent, or even redundant. Our voice cannot die down after we have uttered a speech in Paris or produced a film or marched in the street. Consistent and sustained engagement with policy- and decision-makers, as well as continuous dialogue with all stakeholders that are part of our network are critical. Repeatedly spreading our messages to both mainstream and online media will help amplify our case for better climate and health policies and actions.

For instance, after COP21, we have organized several fora with different audiences, covered by the media, about the health benefits of renewable energy. The angle might be different from our pre-COP21 messages, but the principles are the same. I am sharing some of the media coverage that we have received just in the past month alone.

More to come in the next months - until the last coal plant is shut down!

Using the federal Social Cost of Carbon to make better decisions

Physicians weighing in on public policy, including the health costs of carbon pollution, makes a big difference in changing policy outcomes that will result in lower carbon emissions. Here's a positive example from Minnesota regulatory work led by a group of volunteers at Doctors for a Healthy Environment.

Background: Minnesota was historically a very coal-dependent state, with as much as 75 percent of its electricity coming from coal-burning power plants (some utilities got 90 percent of their generation from burning coal). Through implementation of bipartisan energy policies now almost 10 years old, the state has grown its renewable energy economy (now 21 percent of electricity, supporting 15,000 jobs) but the remaining coal plants in the region are big obstacles to further clean air and climate progress. These old plants now supply almost 50 percent of the state's electricity.

Opportunity: Minnesota law passed in 1993 requires state regulators to consider external cost values--externalities--when weighing electricity investment decisions. These health and environmental cost values for burning coal have not been updated in nearly 20 years and are no longer scientifically valid. a University of Minnesota economic analysis shows these costs are more than $2.1 billion dollars a year, and Minnesota is a small state. Fresh Energy and partners were successful in petitioning state regulators to update these externalities values used in future electricity investment decisions. The case is now before an Administrative Law Judge, who will report out April 15, 2016 on whether Minnesota should use the federal Social Cost of Carbon as the best estimate of carbon dioxide cost values. Stay tuned for news of that decision, with national implications. 

Health professionals join the intervention: Doctors for a Healthy Environment intervened in this regulatory opportunity, hired an attorney, and have been active in the case. (There's been a great deal of investment in opposition to raising the external cost values to reflect scientific reality, led by Peabody Coal.) The physicians have been providing detailed evidence for the record on the health impacts of both direct emissions from coal-burning power plants and the health impacts of climate change caused in large part by burning coal. 

You can learn more at

Beyond Environmentalism Toward an Equitable and Healthy Future

 A future vision for promoting climate solutions and global health requires us to reflect about the exclusions and barriers that have hampered an inclusive pathway toward success.  As a member of the Climate Justice Alliance, the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy guided the crafting of an Energy Democracy Platform that we hope will shift traditional environmentalism toward a more democratic vision: The Platform calls for a shift from corporate dominated, centralized fossil fuel economy to one that is governed by communities; is designed on the principle of no harm to the environment; and will support local economies; and contribute to the health and well-being of all peoples.  Just some of the principles in the Energy Democracy Platform, which should be used for framing a future vision of climate and global health include:

Human Rights:  The U.N.has delcared  the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment as integral to the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rihts, including the rights to life, health, food, water. All climate solutions should be build on the practice and undertanding of the interrelationship between human rights and environmental protection.

Energy Commons:  Energy is basically the transformation of nature for our human use. Whether it is fossil fuels (coal and oil) or renewable sources (solar and wind), we are using nature for our needs. A fundamental principle is that these gifts of nature are for everyone, and as such are everyone's responsibility to care for, nurture and sustain.  The resources used for energy are part fo the Earth's commons, and should not be owned by, or belong to any nation, or corporations exclusively. The energy commons is a recognition and respect fo rthe cultural, social and spiritual elements of the Earth, and should not be exploited or exhausted.

Just Transition: Climate solutions must promote open access to decent jobs and work - that is jobs that provide safe and healthy livelinhoods for families and communities; fair and equitable treatment of workers; financial security and adequate financial protections; heatlh benefits, the right to be treated with dignity and respect and the ability to voice concerns and participate in decision-making about working conditions free from harrassment. The Just Transition is about creating new meaningful, living wage jobs that prioritize unemployed and underemployed community members and workers in the fossil-fuel industry that will be transitioned out of the extractive economy.

Acknowledge, Act and Repair Historical Harms. The root cause of climate change is rooted in the development of an economy dependent upon the fossil-fuel energy system, which has also left a legacy of social, economic and environmental harms across many communities. This history cannot be divorced from the history of race, class and Indigenous peoples.  These historical legacies, which continue to have impacts must be acknowedged and included in climate solutions.


With these and other principles, we can address climate, health and social justice toward a new future.




Replicable work: a CME on Health and Climate Change

In November 2015, Allina Health. Abbott Northwestern Hospital, and the University of Minnesota Medical School co-sponsored a daylong Minnesota CME (Climate Change and Public Health: An Interprofessional Review) that was attended by 120 physicians, nurses, and other health professionals. It was the first of its kind in Minnesota, and perhaps in the nation. I have attached a description of the agenda, speakers, and accreditation. The organizers would love to help make this project a touchstone for similar work elsewhere.

Climate health in CME

I love this idea J.! I have been convening an annual climate change and health summer school as part of the University of Otago Wellington Department of Public Health Summer School in NZ. It's a one day event that attracts participants from across health professions, local government and cross-sector policy-makers, but I think it could be greatly strengthened by having it approved by the Colleges as counting towards CME.

Nurses and climate action

My organization, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (, was created in 2008, following meeting of 50 environmental health nursing leaders who were convened to discuss how to better coordinate their disparate efforts. Since its inception ANHE has been a leader in the nursing community on a number of environmental health issues including chemical policies, health issues related to the oil and gas industry, and climate change. ANHE is the only nursing organization working in collaboration with a wide range of nursing and environmental organizations to address the impacts of climate change.

Our strength has been in educating the nursing profession on vital issues such as climate change and providing them with opportunities for engagement. This past summer we held 3 in-state workshops on climate change (Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia) and then a larger workshop in Washington DC with nurses from 12 different states. These workshops were amazingly successful at providing nurses with information they need to become successful advocates on climate and health. The workshops featured presentations by nationally recognized nurse experts on the science of climate change and health, messaging on the issue, the health impacts of various energy production methods, advocacy training, and media training. The second day of the workshop we put this knowledge to work by meeting with policymakers - legislators, EPA officials, state health departments, etc - to discuss the health impacts of climate change and voicing our support for the Clean Power Plan.

Nurses are the most trusted profession and having them speak with policymakers on climate change and health has been very effective at helping policymakers make the link between climate and health issues facing their communities. We are now replicating this model in other states and with other environmental health issues.


ANHE Nurses at the Virginia State Capitol
Nurses and climate health action

Great that you've posted about the work of nurses. the NZ Nurses Organisation has long been a stalwart of public health activism here, and the NZ Climate & Health Council has a strong relationship with them as an organisational friend. Given their large numbers, their strong union, their high level of public trust and their history of activism they are an important part of our work.

Different Contexts for Health Care

Jeff, your work with Gundersen is really a gold standard for health care. I am curious about your opinion on its applicability in different contexts. At COP 21, I spoke with a woman from Nigeria who was advocating for the co-benefits of clean energy as more dependable and healthier option in developing countries. During her pregnancy the power went off, causing permanent damage to her child. Do you see the model you have used being applied in developing countries?  If so, could you share any thoughts on how health care in resource constrained settings can learn from Gundersen? Renzo and Kanton, it would be great to get your opinion of challenges and opportunities as well! 



Members tagged in this comment: 
Multiple solutions

I think the generalizable points would be the following.

Conservation has  reliably been  one of the richest sources of energy in almost every setting. It can have huge (30-50%) opportunities in energy intense cultures. But even in less energy intense cultures modest gains in heat, power, and cooling efficiency can make a large difference.

Next, energy sourcing is very location dependent. Instead of coal from 2000KM away we chose local landfill gas, cow manure, and hard wood chips to generate electricity. Better for the local economy,better sources in the face of weather or economic disruption.

For Wisconsin solar is just now becoming more large scale viable. On the other hand the Nigeria group might  have 350+ days of sun...but face other challenges of installation cost, maintenance capability ( low with solar), economic or politically stability that can disrupt long term investments. Finding the right partners to work with you long term to not just start but maintain a power source is critical.

Finally...we found partners in many forms. Government agencies, for profit companies, not for profit companies, educational organizations and of course many staff and citizens.





Documentary on the impact of South Africa's energy policy

Through first-hand testimony The Bliss of Ignorance investigates South Africa's complex relationship with one of the country's most abundant resources: coal.

With experts predicting the creation of a "sick" generation in the Mpumalanga region (which is home to 12 of the world's largest power stations), this documentary looks at the impact of South Africa's energy policy - particularly the support for the South African power utility, Eskom's coal-fired power stations - on public health. In February 2015 energy giants Eskom were granted five years grace from complying with atmospheric emission standards, making this film ever more timely and relevant.

Set against the wider climate change debate, The Bliss of Ignorance highlights how the mining and burning of coal affects the environment; polluting air and valuable water resources in a water-scarce country.

Offificial site:



Bliss of ignorance
Bliss of Ignorance...expanded

Stunning video....thanks for putting that out for us. It is repeated at varying degrees all over the world with indoor and outdoor pollution. It kills millions, a disproportionate share in the poorest communities.

Another sea of ignorance is the impact of consumer buying on the carbon burden. The National Health Service in England's study said power was a huge contributor...but  ranked third behind drugs and equipment in their carbon foot prints. This will be a huge opportunity for us to better educate the broad public and industry on the overall...sourcing, producing, transporting, distribution and disposal/recycling of products, The environmental foot print, like that of power, has a giant cross over into health.

Some thoughts on future vision building upon recent successes
Thanks for the opportunity to participate in this online conversation! It's been great to read about the experiences and insights from some familiar as well as new-to-me voices. I'm the global coordinator for the Healthy Energy Initiative, which Renzo and Rico are also part of in the Philippines and South Africa, respectively. 
Moving forward from Paris, I think we have to continue to build and amplify the dialogue on climate and health. I think we need to not only be consistent and persistent, as Renzo said, but to also become more sophisticated and specific in our asks. The examples above -- about training health professionals to become more involved in sub-national climate policy such as the US Clean Power Plan, about highlighting the health benefits of renewable energy, about engaging specific subgroups in the health sector such as nurses -- are all very inspiring with respect to taking the health and climate dialogue to the next level. 
A few more thoughts on future vision building upon recent successes:
Building synergies and partnerships within the health sector:
The Global Climate and Health Alliance and the NCD Alliance just released a joint policy brief, "NCDs and Climate Change: Shared Opportunities for Action." With the growing prevalence of NCDs globally as well as the increasing threat of climate change on health, this is a very timely collaboration to identify policy responses in the wake of Paris and with the beginning of the implementation phase of the UN Sustainable Development Agenda. 
Health sector divestment from fossil fuels and investment in clean energy:
Over the last few years, several prominent health sector organizations have divested or restricted investments in fossil fuels, and several others are considering it. Divestment can be a powerful tool to help bring attention to the health and environmental impacts of fossil fuels. Recent examples include Dignity Health (5th largest health system in US) and the Canadian Medical Association. The World Medical Association and World Federation of Public Health Associations are also in the process of exploring divestment.
On the other side of the same coin, clean energy investments make sense for hospitals and health systems, as Jeff Thompson from Gundersen Health System and other leaders have demonstrated. Some more info on the divestment-investment strategy from HCWH here
Articulating a global platform for "healthy energy"
Health Care Without Harm and our partners in the Healthy Energy Initiative launched the "Paris Platform for Healthy Energy" last year to use the Paris moment to articulate a consensus within the health sector on the commitments and demands needed to ensure a just transition to healthy energy choices. In the lead-up to Paris the Platform received endorsements from over 40 organisations representing the health sector in more than 80 countries, and we hope to continue building support for the Platform to achieve two primary aims: a) broadening and deepening engagement of health organizations and health professionals around the world in this movement, and b) using the Platform to communicate the health sector consensus around the clean energy transition. Check it out here.
Clean energy is good health policy

 On the last day of this online conversation on tactics to better link health knowledge to climate action, a duo of health professionals from Minnesota, an eminent neurologist and and eminent nurse, published this commentary about clean energy, the Clean Power Plan, and human health. Very timely and replicable!

Best to everyone on this conversation, and to future readers!  -J. Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director, Fresh Energy @jdrakehamilton,

Practical Applications

Thanks J for your very thoughtful posts and this strong article. There is much to be done but so much more momentum than we  have had even 5 years ago.

The strength of multiple generations, multiple cultures and areas of expertise will help us keep this moving ever faster forward. For several examples of practical attempts to implement these priorities in an system and region the Gundersen Health System's site is .

thanks for your interest.  Jeff Thompson