On 22 April, Earth Day 2021, the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) has declared a Climate Emergency. The IAPB released a Call to Action for Environmentally Sustainable Practices in the Eye Health Sector and a Guide for Environmentally Sustainable Practices in the Eye Health Sector. These two resources, produced by the IAPB Climate Action Working Group (CAWG) outline the need for climate action within the eye health sector and show how the sector can mitigate its own climate impact.
Marking the release of these two documents, IAPB Chief Executive Officer, Peter Holland said, “Globally, we are seeing the devastating impacts of climate change on our environment and health. There are more intense extreme weather events, rising temperatures and sea levels, spread of disease, devastation on habitats and increase in air pollution. Eye health is being affected through increase in trachoma infections, vitamin A deficiencies, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, allergic and dry eye diseases.
“Climate events will disrupt eye health service delivery by damaging medical facilities and affecting critical supplies. In addition to the effects of climate change on health, we recognise that healthcare is a massive consumer of resources and emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for 4.4% of global emissions.
“Climate change disproportionately impacts poor, marginalised and disadvantaged populations and may exacerbate existing or create new inequities in eye health. The Lancet Global Commission on Global Eye Health has stated that environmentally responsible eye health services are essential to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals including SDG 13 on Climate Action.”
The Call to Action for Environmentally Sustainable Practices in the Eye Health Sector recognises the eye health sector’s contribution to climate change. It highlights opportunities for the sector to show leadership and accelerate efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by focusing on key areas of action including leadership, advocacy, sustainable procurement, facilities management, service delivery, education, research and collaboration.
RANZCO Sustainability Committee chair, Dr Jesse Gale has welcomed the IAPB call to action, saying “this is an excellent and timely document, that highlights both the urgency and opportunity. It will be of great use to us in formulating a plan of action, both at a professional and individual level.”