Legislate for carbon net zero by 2030
On Nov 29, 2018, the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, of which the Climate and Health Council, BMJ, and The Lancet are members, sent a letter¹ to the UK Prime Minister saying that for the preservation of both planetary and human health, the UK must become carbon net zero before 2050. Given the recent warning from Sir David Attenborough² of the risk of civilisational breakdown, and the increasingly forceful statements from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it is clear that the climate crisis has reached a new level of severity. To forestall the planetary catastrophe that Attenborough and the IPCC predict, the UK must take the lead, set an international example, and become carbon net zero by 2030. We therefore call on the UK Government and parliament to legislate for the UK to be carbon net zero by 2030, and to work with institutions across the country to ensure that this goal is achieved.
The Alliance’s letter to the Prime Minister stated that tackling climate breakdown is now a key part of the duties and responsibilities of all health professionals. This challenge has also become the most urgent responsibility of all politicians, whose actions will be most keenly judged by future generations. It should help to know that the steps required to stop climate breakdown will mean cleaner and more efficient transport, more walking and cycling, more green spaces, cleaner air and water, healthier and more sustainable diets, and insulated homes—all of which will improve physical and mental health, and have the potential to deliver economic and social benefits for all. What is good for your health is good for the planet, and vice versa.
The health community has been making these arguments for decades, and yet global carbon emissions continue to rise, species die out, sea acidifies, soil degrades, and pollutants and fossil-based fertilisers rain over land and sea. When faced with lifethreatening crises of this magnitude in the past, the best-intentioned actions of individuals and larger sectors of society were not enough. Instead, it was the concerted action of governments, acting to embolden populations and coordinate action, that enabled us to overcome these challenges. Witness the mobilisation instigated by the Churchill Government in 1940, and the Roosevelt Administration in January, 1943, with the single objective of providing the wherewithal to defeat Nazi Germany and its allies. The existential crisis provoked by climate change requires a similar mobilisation. In the past, this action was for war; now, it must be to prevent the violence of climate breakdown.
With the introduction of the world’s first climate change act in 2008, the UK Parliament has shown that an all-party group can come together to provide the necessary leadership. We also commend the government for asking the Committee on Climate Change for their advice as to how the UK should now proceed. However, recognising the unparalleled nature of the crisis, we call on the government and parliamentarians to urgently legislate for the UK to become carbon net zero by 2030. In turn, the government should bring together a diverse coalition of civil society groups—from unions, through faith organisations, to community groups—to gain support and mobilise for a great national effort to stave-off catastrophe and build a better world. We offer our support in mobilising health professionals.
Our national history is made up of moments in which we have responded to crisis and realised a better world in the process. Climate breakdown is the greatest crisis we have ever faced, and, in committing to becoming carbon net zero by 2030, the UK can set an example to the world, adding a proud chapter to that history. On behalf of future generations, we, as health professionals, implore you, the UK Government and our representatives in parliament, to act.
RS is the co-chair of the Climate and Health Council and a board member of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change. SA reports consultancy fees from Ferring Pharmaceuticals, outside of the submitted work. FG is on the Executive Committees of the Climate and Health Council and the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change. LP reports non-financial support from the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change. IG declares no competing interests.
*Robin Stott, Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, Ian Gilmore, Fiona Godlee, Lisa Page, on behalf of 29 signatories†
†A full list of signatories is provided in the appendix [see below].
Climate and Health Council, London SE10 8JS, UK (RS); St George’s, University of London, London, UK (SA); Liverpool Centre for Alcohol Research, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK (IG); BMJ, London, UK (FG); UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, London, UK (FG,LP); and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Sussex, UK (LP)
1 UK Health Alliance on Climate Change. UKHACC letter to PM calls for net-zero before 2050. Nov 29, 2018.
http://www.ukhealthalliance.org/ukhacc-letter-pm-calls-net-zero-2050/ (accessed Jan 18, 2019).
2 Mark Tutton. David Attenborough: ‘The collapse of our civilizations is on the horizon’. CNN. Dec 4, 2018.
https://edition.cnn.com/2018/12/03/europe/attenborough-cop24-climate-con... (accessed Jan 18, 2019).
This Correspondence Published Online February 20, 2019
Legislate for carbon net zero by 2030 -- List of 29 signatories.
Robin Stott: Co-chair Climate and Health Council London SE10 8JS UK.
Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: Prof emeritus of O and G St Georges University Hospital London SW17 0QT UK.
Sue Atkinson: Co chair climate and health council. Visiting Professor Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London WC1E 6BT
Michael Boulton Jones: Retired consultant nephrologist .5 Glassford Street Milngavie Glasgow.G62 8DS UK.
Isobel Braithwaite: Public health registrar London. Imperial college NHS trust London W6 8RF UK.
Rebecca Fisher: General practitioner Oxford.
Mike Gill : Past co-chair of the Climate and Health Council. 21 Priory Terrace, London NW6 4DG UK.
Sir Ian Gilmore: Director Liverpool Centre for Alcohol Research, university of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3BX UK.
Fiona Godlee: Board Member Uk health alliance on climate change. Editor BMJ . BMA house Tavistock Square London WC1H 9 JZ UK.
Anya Gopfert: Junior doctor on the National Medical Directors Clinical Fellow Scheme. Bristol Royal Infirmary Bristol BS2 8HW UK.
Isky Gordon : Emeritus professor of paediatric imaging .University College London WC1E 6BT UK.
Sir Malcolm Green: Professor emeritus .Imperial college London SW7 2AZ UK.
Nigel Leigh: Professor of neurology . Brighton and Sussex medical school Brighton BN1 9PH UK.
John Martin: Retired General practitioner,60 Gayton Rd Kings Lynn.PE30 4EL UK.
David McCoy: Professor of Global Public Health, Queen Mary University London E1 4NS UK.
Klim Mcpherson: Emeritus professor of public health epidemiology ,New College ,Oxford University, Oxford OX1 3BN UK.
Hugh Montgomery: Professor of intensive care -University College London WC1E 6BT UK.
John Moxham : Professor of Respiratory Medicine King’s College Hospital London SE5 9RH UK.
Lisa Murphy: National Medical directors Clinical Fellow .Public Health England London SE1 8UG UK.
Lisa Page: Board member UK Health Alliance on Climate Change. And Sussex partnership NHS foundation trust, Worthing BN13 3EP UK.
Roshni Patel: Doctor in training. Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. Exeter EX2 5DW UK.
David Pencheon: Associate, and Honorary Professor.Health and Sustainable Development.Medical and Health School. University of Exeter , xeter EX4 4PY UK.
Katrina Pollock: NIHR Clinical Lecturer in Genitourinary Medicine, Department of Medicine, Imperial College London W2 1PG UK.
Robin Russell-Jones: Scientific Advisor to the All Party Parliamentary Group on air pollution.54 Frieth rd, Marlow SL7 2QU.
Ain Satar: Paediatric Registrar Education Fellow for University College London WC1E 6BT UK.
Richard Smith: Ex editor of the BMJ,BMA house , Tavistock Square. London WC1H 9JZ UK.
Maria Van Hove: Clinical fellow London UK.
Gill Walt: Professor of International Health Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University College London WC1E 7HT UK.
Nick Watts: Director Lancet countdown University College London. WC1E 6BT UK.
Competing interests: RS is the co-chair of the Climate and Health Council and a board member of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change. SA reports consultancy fees from Ferring Pharmaceuticals, outside of the submitted work. FG is on the Executive Committees of the Climate and Health Council and the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change. LP reports non-financial support from the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change. IG declares no competing interests. Other signatories: SA is the co-chair of the Climate and Health Council; IB previously held a (mainly voluntary) role as Projects Officer of the Global Climate and Health Alliance from 2014 to June 2016. In this capacity she received payment (£1500) for work involved in organising the 2015 Climate and Health Summit. She has also been involved on a voluntary basis with the UK Climate and Health Council, and wrote the ‘Briefing for UK Policy-Makers’ which accompanied the 2017 Lancet Countdown Report on Health and Climate Change; MG is past co-chair, Climate and Health Council; HM is an unpaid executive member of the UK Climate and Health Council, and co-chairs the Lancet Countdown on Climate and Health; NW is director of the Lancet Countdown on Climate and Health; KP has received research funding from the NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre, and research funding and travel bursary from Gilead Sciences Europe Ltd. She is a named inventor on a patent, publication number WO/2015/033136. MB-J, MG, NL, JM, DP, RR-J, RS, LM, DMcC, RF, GW, KMcP, IG, JM, AG, MVH, AS declare no competing interests.