Climate change and health

In 2021, the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal Society undertook a working group project exploring the near-term health benefits of decarbonisation in the UK to produce a report aimed at UK policymakers. 

Throughout 2021, the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal Society undertook a working group project exporing the near-term health benefits of decarbonisation in the UK. The final report was led by 11 experts and informed by a series of roundtable discussions and consultation exercises, resulting in 4 key recommedations. 

Download the report.

Consequences for human health resulting from climate change are complex and multi-faceted, including direct and indirect effects, now and in the future. The UK is actively considering policies that reduce carbon emissions to zero, more quickly in the coming decades. Considering the health impacts of such policies is important to ensure we can achieve the greatest health improvement and avoid unitended negative consequences. 

This joint project, chaired by Professor Sir Andy Haines FMedSci, and Professor Joanna Haigh CBE FRS explored the health impacts of decarbonisation policies in a number of sectors and areas: energy; food; transport; healthcare; mobility; built environment; employment; and international spillover effects. It aimed to synthesise and quantify the health co-benefits (as well as economic and social benefits) of ‘the most promising’ pathways to decarbonisation. It also  highlighted areas where health benefits are larger than the climate change mitigation impact along  with potential trade-offs. 

The report urges UK policy makers and funders to put health benefits at the heart of climate change discussions, debate and action with four key recommedations:

  • Incorporation of health into the climate narrative, with opportunites for the UK Government to take a global leadership role in ensure health benefits are at the heart of climate change discussions, debate and action following it's hosting role of COP26.
  • Greater efforts to incorporate mitigation and adaptation measures, to identify and address the
    potential unintended consequences of climate action on human health, understand real world implications and maximise health benefits. 
  • The implementation and refinement of metrics to assess the effects of climate action on health - including its impact on income and other inequalities, to robustly and regularly measure  the impact of mitigation policies and minimise any adverse consequences. 
  • A focus on promoting transdisciplinary systems approaches, including from UK research funders, to address the complex interation of climate change and health. 

 

A series of roundtables centering on cross-cutting themes and consultation exercises took place to inform the report. Summaries of each of the roundtables can be found on the right hand side of this page.  

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