As world leaders arrive in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change will continue its work to ensure the voice of the UK’s healthcare workforce is heard on the urgent need for action on climate change for health.
With partners across the UK and globally, over the last number of months we have delivered a series of campaigns, supported key initiatives, bills and policies, and raised the profile of health on the climate change agenda.
In September, we coordinated the publication of an editorial which was simultaneously published in more than 220 international health journals, including The BMJ, The Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine, The National Medical Journal of India, Chinese Science Bulletin and many others from every continent. The editorial set out the concerns of the health community and outlined their key asks to reduce air pollution and the transfer of funds from high income to low income countries to achieve our global targets. A complete list of authors and signatories can be viewed here.
On the back of publication of this editorial, we have worked with colleagues at the Global Climate and Health Alliance and WHO to coordinate an open letter which has been signed by more than 450 organisations representing about 45 million health professionals around the world. The letter, which will be delivered to the 197 government leaders and national delegations at COP26, warns that the climate crisis is the single biggest health threat facing humanity, and calling on world leaders to deliver on climate action.
The letter will be delivered into COP26 by a team of paediatric professionals who are cycling from London to Glasgow accompanied by pollution pods, to raise awareness about the impact of air pollution on children’s health. UKHACC Chair, Richard Smith and Ambassadors Fiona Godlee and Robin Stott will be joining the cyclists along the way to complete parts of the route.
We have worked with the Global Climate and Health Alliance, WHO, Glasgow Caledonian University Centre for Climate Justice, Centre on Climate Change and Planetary Health of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the Wellcome Trust to deliver the 2021 Global Conference on Climate Change and Health which will take place during the first weekend of COP26. The conference will have a special focus on climate justice.
We worked with the Lancet, Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to publish a UK policy briefing to coincide with the publication of the global Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change. Our briefing paper identifies three areas for urgent action to protect health for all, and specifically maternal and child health.
With partners working across the UK, we have developed webinars for individuals interested in finding out more about getting involved in action on health and climate change. Delivered over two sessions, the first of these webinars took place in the week before COP26 with a focus on introducing the work and opportunities to get involved in action with organisations including UKHACC, Students for Glasgow Justice, Healthcare Without Harm, Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, Sustainable Healthcare Coalition, Health Declares a Climate Emergency, Medact and Greener NHS. The second session will take place after COP26 with a focus on the future.
In partnership with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, we are hosting a networking event for UK and international health and policy leaders during COP26. With speakers including UKHACC Ambassador, Professor Dame Parveen Kumar and Chief Sustainability Officer of NHS England, Dr Nick Watts, this event will be an opportunity for leaders to come together and discuss actions for delivering a cleaner health service.
Many members of UKHACC are also hosting events during COP26, which we are supporting. This includes a webinars on climate change and health, sustainability in dentistry and trainee climate competition being held by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. A webinar on conversations to transform healthcare beyond COP26 by Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, and a Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health conference on the impact of climate change on child health.
On behalf of our membership, we have written to government ministers and voiced our support for bills going through parliament including the Environment Bill and the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. And we have facilitated a meeting with the UK Cabinet Office and our members to discuss covid risk mitigation during COP26.
Finally, throughout the lead up and during COP26, Chair of the Alliance Richard Smith, and Director Elaine Mulcahy have proactively engaged in raising awareness and advocacy through speaking at multiple events and publishing opinion pieces and commentary on some of the key challenges and opportunities on climate and health.