Position statement: Climate Change & Public Health, November 2021

We, the members of the London Association of Directors of Public Health declare a climate and health emergency.

As the UK hosts the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), we as public health professionals are committed to collective, long-term actions that create a healthier, fairer and environmentally sustainable London.

Climate change and health are inextricably linked and already affecting Londoners.

Air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions impact human health and quality of life in our neighbourhoods as well as contributing directly to climate change. London’s air quality is poor to the extent that all school children in London breathe air that currently doesn’t meet the WHO’s clean air standards. In recent years, life in the city has been impacted by severe heat waves and increasingly frequent flooding.

Importantly, the impacts of climate change do not affect us all equally but put the heaviest burden on those who are most vulnerable, such as people in low-income, minoritised, disabled and marginalised groups.

London is a global city with a projected population of 11 million by 2050. There are increasing demands on natural resources, space, water, food and energy supplies, aggravating the effects of climate change on our citizens, so we must rise to the challenge.  At a global scale, climate change leads to increased spread and emergence of infectious diseases and pandemics, to food and water insecurity and increasingly to climate change induced displacement, migration and socio-economic instability.

But there is much that can be done and positive actions we can take. Every choice we make as professionals and institutions, and as individuals and communities, has the power to create a more sustainable London and a healthier planet.

Action on climate change is action on health. Making walking and cycling easier in London will improve the quality of the air we breathe as well as physical and mental health through increased physical activity. Creating a greener and more biodiverse London will help lessen the effects of extreme heat and flooding as well as improve the quality of our lives and that of future generations of Londoners. Crucially, this transformation of our systems must be equitable, inclusive and co-created with communities if we are to narrow rather than exacerbate social and health inequalities. A healthier future is within our grasp.

In response to this climate and health emergency we will:

  • Explain the link between climate change and health in a clear and accessible way.
  • Highlight the benefits for health that result from action on climate change and action to achieve environmental sustainability. 
  • Improve the available evidence on co-benefits of actions on climate change and public health.
  • Use our expertise around equity to ensure that the effects of climate change on groups and individuals in London are clearly understood, and actions responsively designed and implemented.
  • Ensure that local communities are actively engaged in creating solutions towards a healthier and more sustainable London.
  • Work across sectors and with environmental champions to build a unified voice in calling for equitable climate action that puts health first.

There is no longer any dispute around the urgency of action on the climate emergency – the time to act is now.

If you’d like to get in touch with ADPH London, please email office@adphlondon.org.uk.