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Health inequalities & climate change assessed together for fair green recovery

28 October 2020

For the first time, inequalities in planetary health and human health have been assessed together in an independent report to inform the UK Government's future targets on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Photo of a tree in a green grassy field against a blue sky.

The UKCCC (Climate Change Commission) Health Equity Report highlights how direct and indirect impacts of climate change will widen existing health inequalities in the UK. The Group warns the most vulnerable will be hit hardest unless health equity is considered alongside future government greenhouse gas targets. 

The direct impacts on physical and mental health caused by climate change include changing exposure to heat and cold, increased exposure to UV radiation, air pollution, pollen, emerging infections, flooding and associated water-borne diseases, and the impacts of extreme weather events such as storms and floods. 

Indirect impacts occur because of climate change’s impacts on the livelihoods of individuals, on prices of food, water, and domestic energy; on utilities and supply chains that are at risk from extreme weather conditions, on global security – and on the increasingly complex interactions between these factors. 

The report identified four key areas for action: minimising air pollution, building energy efficient homes, promoting sustainable and healthy food, and prioritising active and safe transport. 

Dr Ian Hamilton, Reader at UCL Energy Institute is a member of the Health Expert Advisory Group that published the report with The UKCCC.

The UK Health Expert Advisory Group was set up by Prof Sir Michael Marmot in January 2020 to advise the CCC on how to achieve a green recovery and improve health equity (fair distribution of health) when setting the Sixth Carbon Budget. 

Due to be published in early December, the Sixth Carbon Budget will lay out a new path on how to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.