The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) president Claire Anderson has called on COP26 President Alok Sharma MP to use his leadership to put health at the forefront of discussions at COP27.

Ms Anderson, alongside members of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, has written to Mr Sharma today, arguing health has not had the prominence it deserves in COP meetings and that without urgent action, there will be catastrophic harm to health.

Arguing that action was needed to bring benefits to health, the urged him to use his position as outgoing COP president to help end reliance on fossil fuels. They also welcomed his calls for more urgency, including for major emitters increase the scale and pace of emissions reductions.

The letter highlighted the need for the health impacts of climate change and the health benefits of action to be incorporated into COP27 negotiations, as set out in the COP27 Global Health Community Recommendations.

It referenced the 2022 Lancet Countdown UK Policy Briefing, released last month which highlighted the link between climate change and extreme weather events like heatwaves, as well as the increased risk of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders, and adverse pregnancy outcomes that comes with exposure to air pollution.

The Lancet briefing called for the UK government end all subsidies, investments, new licences and consent for fossil fuels while ensuring a just transition to renewable energy, adopting a legally binding commitment to reducing fine particulate air pollution and creating equitable access to green space by ensuring everyone has a local park within a 10-minute walk.

The letter also called for wealthy nations to step up support for Africa and vulnerable countries in addressing past, present and future impacts of climate change.

It referenced the COP27 Climate Change Conference: Urgent action needed for Africa and the world editorial, which says it is imperative that the suffering of frontline nations is at the core of COP27 negotiations because in an interconnected world, environmental shocks in vulnerable nations have severe consequences for all nations.

The letter read: ‘Recent reports from the UNFCCC and the Lancet Countdown have made clear that not enough is being done to reduce emissions and protect health against the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

‘As the outgoing COP President, we urge you to secure a legacy in which the year from COP26 to COP27 marks a pivotal moment in history where negotiations move to actions and implementation that put an end to global reliance on fossil fuels and deliver justice for vulnerable nations.

Professor Claire Anderson, RPS president, said: ‘The impact of climate change on health is becoming more and more stark, especially in the global south. The letter published today demonstrates there’s consensus from healthcare leaders across the UK that health should be a priority at COP27 and that urgent action is needed to bring down emissions.

‘We hope that our calls are listened to and put into action by our political leaders at the COP27 negotiations.’

In September, RPS announced that it had sold any direct financial investments, such as stocks, bonds, or investment funds, that it had in companies that extract fossil fuels, and urged pharmacists to join its sustainability efforts.