In the lead up to the elections taking place across the UK this May, and to coincide with Earth Day, the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC) has urged all candidates standing for election to the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments, as well as those standing in Mayoral elections in England, to make action on climate change a priority.
UKHACC’s 22 member organisations, including Royal Colleges of Medicine, the Royal College of Nursing, the British Medical Association, Faculties of health, the BMJ and the Lancet, recognise climate change as the greatest health threat of the 21st century, and advocate for climate action which simultaneously protects and promotes health. Together we represent over 650,000 health professionals working in the NHS across the UK.
An extract of our message, which is based on our jointly agreed Call to Action, appears below. You can also separately read and download our specific messages to Scottish, Welsh and Mayoral candidates.
Our message to Scottish candidates has been co-signed by the Presidents of the Royal College of Surgeons and Physicians of Glasgow, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties in Scotland.
As health professionals we think it’s essential to continue to strive to keep the global increase in temperature to below 1.5°C on pre-industrial levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that beyond this level it will not be possible to halt the increasing impact of climate change on health, through flooding, heatwaves, food insecurity, the increasing spread of infectious diseases, and other harms.
That is why we call for the following:
- All countries to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions emissions by 2040 with countries with high emissions (including the UK) making much bigger cuts than those with low emissions
- Countries with the greatest responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions (mostly high income countries) to transfer funds to countries that are most vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis, enabling them to adapt and prepare
- All fossil fuel subsidies to end (while protecting the vulnerable who may be unfairly disadvantaged) coupled with a massive investment in renewable energy and storage, green infrastructure, and green jobs
- All fossil fuel companies to become net-zero by 2040
- All health services to become net-zero as soon as possible and before 2040
The UK Government, devolved Governments in Scotland and Wales, and cities across the country have been among the first to set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero. We campaigned for these commitments, and welcome them. We also welcome the UK Government’s acceptance of the Climate Change Committee’s recommendation to accelerate carbon emissions – reducing them by 78% by 2035 (based on 1990 baseline levels).
We urge candidates to continue to increase their ambition for climate action across the UK, as we prepare to host the COP26 international climate summit. The health community is not alone in their support for climate action. An overwhelming majority (80%) of people across the UK are concerned about climate change, according to a poll conducted in March 2019 by the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
We ask that you support local and national government, the NHS, civil society, and business to take urgent action to avert 1.5°C warming and protect health.
You can find our calls to action in full on our website, along with our six principles for a healthy and green recovery and our proposals for recovery of the health and social care system.
We wish you luck in your campaign and hope that you will raise climate change with your fellow candidates and in the Parliament if you are elected.
Dr Richard Smith CBE FMedSci FRCGP
Chair, UK Health Alliance on Climate Change
Thursday 22 April 2021