Thank you to all those who contacted me about the health impacts of climate change.
Climate change affects livelihoods, wildlife, infrastructure and economies across the world. It also affects the social and environmental determinants of health. But as the Health Foundation identifies, health has often been overlooked in our system-wide response to climate change.
We must put climate at the centre of all policymaking for a fairer, greener future. We need action at all levels and across all sectors. Climate change and health are complex, systemic problems which require whole-society responses.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is clear: climate change is the “biggest health threat facing humanity”. While the precise impact on public health varies by country and region, vulnerable groups – including children, older people, and those with existing health problems – are more at risk.
We need action to achieve net zero emissions, improve air quality, and limit global temperature rises to reduce the intensity and frequency of climate extremes, which is key to food security.
Yet the UK’s Climate Change Committee says the Government is failing in its implementation of climate policies and that its current strategy will not deliver net zero emissions. There is a “shocking gap” in policies to drive up energy efficiency in homes, air quality targets have repeatedly been missed, and Ministers continue to double down on fossil fuels.
In 2016, a report by the Royal College of Physicians found that 40,000 deaths are attributable to air pollution in the UK every year. The Government has announced its targets on air quality. But these are weaker than the current WHO guidelines. I have long supported a Clean Air Act to establish a legal right to breathe clean air by ensuring the law on air quality is at least as strict as the WHO guidelines.
More widely, I support the Opposition’s calls for a green prosperity plan that will make Britain a clean energy superpower, delivering zero-carbon power by 2030, insulating 19 million homes and establishing a national wealth fund to help create one million green jobs.
We must put climate at the heart of the agenda for a fairer, greener, and healthier future here in Britain and around the world.