Top recommendations for reducing the impacts of climate change on our health
Climate change represents the greatest threat to global health of the 21st century.
As we explored in our recent blog post, the impacts of climate change – such as rising sea levels, droughts and heatwaves – are already harming people’s health and leading to an increased risk of a range of health issues experienced throughout the world. No population is unaffected.
As a result of this global emergency, it is crucial that our international communities work together to ensure that ambitious actions are taken to reduce the impacts of climate change on our health and the planet’s health.
To mark the launch of our ‘Climate change is a health emergency’ campaign, we’re recommending the top ways we can reduce the impacts of climate change to ensure the safety and health of the next generation.
- We need to build strong health systems which are resilient and able to respond to the impacts of climate change. Climate crises, such as extreme weather events, can damage hospitals and medical facilities directly or disrupt water or electrical supplies needed to provide essential health services.
- We need to reduce the carbon footprint of the health sector to avoid contributing to further harming people’s health. Whilst the health sector treats people whose lives are impacted by climate change, it is also responsible for almost 5% of greenhouse gas emissions globally.
- We need to move away from burning fossil fuels towards using renewable energy, whilst ensuring vulnerable communities still have access to energy during this transition. Energy use in buildings and industry accounts for more than half of global greenhouse gas emissions, and air pollution – mostly from burning fossil fuels – was estimated to account for more than 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide in 2016.
- We need to promote healthy and environmentally sustainable diets – for example eating locally-sourced diets rich in whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and low in red meat and processed products. We should also be conscious of how our food is produced and pushing for environmentally-sustainable agricultural methods. Agriculture accounts for approximately 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions and destructive methods can cause stress and damage to the environment, which can speed up the impact of climate change.
- We need to plan our cities better to encourage increased use of active modes of transport – such as walking and cycling. Not only will this reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and other motorised vehicles, but it will also lead to higher levels of physical activity and lower levels of air pollution and traffic injuries to improve our health.
- We need to include actions to reduce climate change and help communities adapt to changing environmental conditions within COVID-19 recovery plans. As the global community works to ‘build back better’ from the pandemic, this will ensure climate action is at the forefront of each decision that is made.
- We need to ensure that strategies to tackle the effects of climate change on health are researched, planned and implemented in partnership with the most vulnerable communities. This includes creating policies that represent us all and allows for fair and equal participation in the decision-making process.
- We need to renew commitments to the Paris Agreement – a united global action treaty signed by 196 nations at ‘COP21’ in 2015 – in order to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius.
What you can do to help
Take action today by signing this letter to Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, James Cleverly and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Grant Shapps to ensure that the UK government recommits to phasing out fossil fuels and investing in green energy for the sake of our health – and the planet’s.