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  • Writer's picturePeers for the Planet

Peers hear from health experts on the links between health, climate and nature

The World Health Organization has called the Paris Agreement “a fundamental public health agreement, potentially the most important public health agreement of the century”.


Last week, Peers were joined by a panel of expert speakers from across academia and the medical sector for a briefing on the impact of climate change and nature loss on human health, and how greater links between climate, nature and health policies could lead to multiple cross-cutting benefits and cost savings.


Contributors outlined how the effects of climate change, and in particular the UK’s over-reliance on fossil fuels, were widening health inequalities and unevenly distributing the costs on the most vulnerable in society. Even if global temperature rises are limited to 1.5 degrees, labour productivity, food security, disease immunity and air quality among other health determinants are all set to worsen.


Peers heard how more frequent and extreme droughts mean that 127 million more people globally are exposed to food insecurity today than in the 1990’s, while in the UK 23,000 deaths in 2020 were attributable to air pollution with heat related deaths also projected to rise steeply in the future. The session also explored the interconnections between healthy nutrition and sustainable farming practices and how the NHS is spending around £6 billion a year to manage the rise in obesity levels associated with overconsumption and ultra-processed foods. 


At the same time, consensus is emerging that UK policy-makers have numerous opportunities to deliver policies which will improve health, manage the risks of climate change and nature loss, while supporting a low carbon, nature positive future. Examples included prioritising low carbon, energy efficient homes, moving away from fossil fuels and investing in clean energy, boosting access to high-quality green spaces and driving a shift towards more affordable, plant-based diets.


Contributors called for government to recognise the inseparability of impacts of climate change and nature loss and health outcomes and to move much more quickly in addressing the root causes underpinning the health of both patients and the planet.


The briefing was organised by Peers for the Planet in conjunction with the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC) with contributions from the Lancet Countdown, Royal College of GPs, the BMA, University of Exeter and the University of Oxford.


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