Protect nature for the good of public health, doctors warn

A new report from the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change lays out several environmental areas action should be increased on as a matter of urgency.

woman wears green face mask

The work has been published to coincide with the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. The event has already been met with protests, and yesterday saw an open letter from business leaders on the need for more environmental action hand-delivered to Net Zero Tsar Chris Skidmore. 

Among the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC) recommendations is more protection for nature and biodiversity in towns and cities. The promotion of plant-based and sustainably-sourced food, and work to limit food waste and build resilience against food insecurity, is also included. 

‘Food system transformation is essential for restoring nature and preventing further climate breakdown,’ said Dr Shireen Kassam, Consultant Haematologist at King’s College Hospital, London. ‘Shifting towards plant-based diets also provides co-benefits for improving human health, addressing antibiotic resistance, reducing pandemic risk and being kinder and more compassionate towards our fellow non-human animals. There are no downsides to adopting a plant-based diet and it’s a hugely impactful action many of us can undertake immediately.’

The UK should also deliver on International Financial Commitments to support nature and biodiversity, the report says, putting an end to subsidies for, investments in and the exploration of fossil fuels. The transition to renewable energy should also be stepped up. Plastic waste, water pollution – including risks posed from pharmaceutical products – and strengthening the flow of money for marine preservation also feature in the report. 

‘More than 84% of the UK population lives in urban areas,’ said Dr Anandita Pattnaik, policy officer at UKHACC. ‘The expansion of towns and cities has led to the loss of nature due to changes in land use, pollution and unhealthy lifestyles. We need to see changes that support a biodiverse nature and enable access to high-quality green and blue spaces for everyone that can help improve both physical and mental health.’

‘We have been slow to recognise that nature is not something outside us but that we are part of nature and that healthy nature is essential for our health. We call on the government and other authorities to increase actions to preserve and promote nature not just for the sake of the environment but for the sake of health,’ added Richard Smith, Chair of the UKHACC.

You can read the report in full here. 

More on the environment and public health:

Portuguese youth vs 32 European nations in landmark climate case

UN Convention on Rights of Child ratified with air quality addition

Is ‘Youth v Montana’ climate court ruling really a landmark?

Image: Artur Tumasjan


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