A Climate and Health Election?

Although it’s likely that the upcoming election will be dominated by Brexit and the NHS, it also serves as an important opportunity for the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, and its members and supporters, to impress upon leaders and candidates of all parties our shared policy recommendations on health and climate change.

Since the last General Election in 2017, Climate Change has significantly risen up the political agenda, and with both main parties now committed to the UK achieving net-zero, it is important that members use every opportunity to maintain the momentum that has gathered.


The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC), represents over 650,000 doctors, nurses and other health professionals advocating for responses to climate change which protect and promote public health.

The cost of climate change
Many of the drivers of climate change – fossil fuel combustion, unhealthy diets and over reliance on motorised transport – harm our health directly, through air pollution, high saturated fat intake and physical inactivity.

  • Physical inactivity costs the UK £20bn a year in the treatment of physical and mental illnesses.
  • Air pollution costs the UK £22.2bn a year in related health and social care.
  • Combined, these costs are equivalent to just under 25% of the UK’s annual expenditure on health and social care.

The policy calls below do not represent all of the positions that the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change has agreed, but we have selected them as some of the most impactful changes that could be made in our three focus areas.

What are we calling for?

An Active Travel Fund:
The next UK Government should establish an ‘Active Travel Fund’ similar to those introduced by Scottish & Welsh Governments. The fund would support local authorities to develop infrastructure to support walking, cycling and other modes of zero emissions transport.

Why?

  • Transport makes up 33% of the UK’s emissions.
  • Physical inactivity is one of the top four causes of death – responsible for 17% of early deaths. Treating conditions related to inactivity costs more than £20bn a year.
  • Supporting zero emission modes of transport is essential if the UK is to achieve net zero emissions before 2050.

What are we calling for?

Legally binding WHO air quality targets:
All parties should support a enshrining World Health Organisation recommended pollution limits in law, to be met by 2030.

A ‘Green watchdog’ with teeth:
We need a new independent Office for Environmental Protection with powers equivalent to the European Commission & Court of Justice (i.e. fines and court action) or standards will slip.

Why?

  • Sources of air pollution are sources of greenhouse gases. Improving air quality will reduce emissions, enabling the UK to reach net-zero before 2050.
  • Air pollution harms every organ in the body, causing around 40,000 premature deaths per year in the UK.
  • Some of our current pollution limits (e.g. for PM2.5) are more than twice WHO levels, and are frequently exceeded.
  • Without strong powers, the watchdog will provide less effective oversight than current EU institutions, and no legal limits can be upheld.

What are we calling for?

Carbon labelling for food:
Tackling climate change without transforming the way the world
produces food isn’t possible. The next Government should mandate the use of ‘carbon labelling’ to help the public choose foods with a smaller footprint.

Why?

  • 20% of global emissions are from agriculture. 
  • Poor diet is one of the top four causes of death. Eating less meat and more plants will contribute to reduction diet related illnesses, which cost the NHS £6.1bn in 2014/15.
  • Most people underestimate the emissions associated with the food they eat, and don’t realise the magnitude of the difference that replacing high-emissions foods, e.g. beef with non-ruminant meat, fish or plant based alternatives, could have.
Watch our video on the impact of air pollution here

We highlighted the need for, and evidence to support, our policy calls on air quality in a recent video, in which Prof. Andrew ‘Bod’ Goddard cycles across London to speak to experts from a range of medical specialisms on the impact of air pollution on our health and health services. Watch the video here.

Thanks our Members – the BMJ, the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and the Royal College of Psychiatrists – as well as with Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Greater London Authority, who supported this project.

For more information please contact laurencebourton@ukhealthalliance.org

A Climate and Health Election?

Although it’s likely that the upcoming election will be dominated by Brexit and the NHS more generally, it also serves as an important opportunity for the UK Health Alliance, its members and supporters to impress upon leaders and candidates of all parties our shared policy recommendations on health and climate change.

Since the last General Election in 2017, Climate Change has significantly risen up the political agenda, and with both main parties now committed to the UK achieving net-zero, it is important that members use every opportunity to maintain the momentum that has gathered.


The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC), represents over 650,000 doctors, nurses and other health professionals advocating for responses to climate change which protect and promote public health.

The cost of climate change
Many of the drivers of climate change – fossil fuel combustion, unhealthy diets and over reliance on motorised transport – harm our health directly, through air pollution, high saturated fat intake and physical inactivity.

>  Physical inactivity costs the UK £20bn a year in the treatment of physical and mental illnesses.
>  Air pollution costs the UK £22.2bn a year in related health and social care.
>  Combined, these costs are equivalent to just under 25% of the UK’s annual expenditure on health and social care.


The policy calls below do not represent all of the positions that the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change has agreed, but we have selected them as some of the most impactful changes that could be made in our three focus areas.

What are we calling for?

An Active Travel Fund:
The next UK Government should establish an ‘Active Travel Fund’ similar to those introduced by Scottish & Welsh Governments. The fund would support local authorities to develop infrastructure to support walking, cycling and other modes of zero emissions transport.

Why?

  • Transport makes up 33% of the UK’s emissions.
  • Physical inactivity is one of the top four causes of death – responsible for 17% of early deaths. Treating conditions related to inactivity costs more than £20bn a year.
  • Supporting zero emission modes of transport is essential if the UK is to achieve net zero emissions before 2050.

What are we calling for?

Legally binding WHO air quality targets:
All parties should support a enshrining World Health Organisation recommended pollution limits in law, to be met by 2030.

A ‘Green watchdog’ with teeth:
We need a new independent Office for Environmental Protection with powers equivalent to the European Commission & Court of Justice (i.e. fines and court action) or standards will slip.

Why?

  • Sources of air pollution are sources of greenhouse gases. Improving air quality will reduce emissions, enabling the UK to reach net-zero before 2050.
  • Air pollution harms every organ in the body, causing around 40,000 premature deaths per year in the UK.
  • Some of our current pollution limits (e.g. for PM2.5) are more than twice WHO levels, and are frequently exceeded.
  • Without strong powers, the watchdog will provide less effective oversight than current EU institutions, and no legal limits can be upheld.

What are we calling for?

Carbon labelling for food:
Tackling climate change without transforming the way the world
produces food isn’t possible. The next Government should mandate the use of ‘carbon labelling’ to help the public choose foods with a smaller footprint.

Why?

  • 20% of global emissions are from agriculture. 
  • Poor diet is one of the top four causes of death. Eating less meat and more plants will contribute to reduction diet related illnesses, which cost the NHS £6.1bn in 2014/15.
  • Most people underestimate the emissions associated with the food they eat, and don’t realise the magnitude of the difference that replacing high-emissions foods, e.g. beef with non-ruminant meat, fish or plant based alternatives, could have.
Watch our video on the impact of air pollution

We highlighted the need for, and evidence to support, our policy calls on air quality in a recent video, in which Prof. Andrew ‘Bod’ Goddard cycles across London to speak to experts from a range of medical specialisms on the impact of air pollution on our health and health services. Watch the video here.

Thanks our Members – the BMJ, the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and the Royal College of Psychiatrists – as well as with Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Greater London Authority, who supported this project.

For more information please send us an email.