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As doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals across the Commonwealth of Virginia, we call on state and local lawmakers to prioritize the recommendations below in order to protect the health and safety of all current and future Virginians from the rising threat of climate change. 


Executive summary of priority actions


1. Begin early and equitable implementation of Virginia’s greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments. Virginia is positioned as a national leader in climate solutions, having passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act and joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in 2020. We need to ensure a strong, coordinated statewide effort to enact these transformative policies, monitor results, and ensure that equity is a guiding principle for implementation.


2. Transition to zero-carbon transportation systems and increase investment in active transportation.  The transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Virginia. To reduce our state’s contribution to climate change, we must rapidly reduce the use of petroleum and natural gas in transportation and invest in physically active modes of travel—walking and bicycling. Reform must benefit marginalized communities bearing the greatest chronic disease burden associated with transportation pollution.


3. Engage the health sector voice in climate policy, action and equity. Health leaders are some of the most trusted members of our society. Preserving a healthy environment is vital for the health of people and has been integral to the house of medicine since ancient times. Clinicians’ scientific training and trusted voice can significantly increase public support for the transformative climate action necessary to protect the health of every Virginian.


4. Incorporate climate solutions into all health care and public health systems. Hospitals and healthcare systems are pillars of leadership and healing within our communities. We can lead towards a just and healthy future by implementing climate-smart healthcare, building facility resilience, and leveraging our economic power to decarbonize the supply chain and promote local economic development, with equity as a core principle for this transformation.


5. Invest in climate and health. Virginia’s health departments do not have adequate capacity to build climate resilience on their own. Virginia should allocate resources to local health departments and the Virginia Department of Health’s Climate Change Committee to study and devise plans to address the health effects of climate change, particularly in our most vulnerable communities. Public health planning can help anticipate and prevent diseases that cost far more to treat in acute care settings.

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