World leaders have a ‘moral responsibility’ to protect public health, BMA says ahead of COP26

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA.

Location: UK
Published: Friday 29 October 2021

The health of the global population and future generations will be at stake if world leaders fail to properly address the issue of climate change at this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), the BMA has said.  

For some time now, the Association has warned of the impact climate change is having on public health, with many UK doctors now seeing the effects that air pollution, for example, is having on patients up and down the country. 

This also has an impact on the NHS itself – the more patients who need the health service because of avoidable conditions like this, the more overwhelmed the already-stretched system becomes, ultimately threatening patient care and safety.  

On a global scale, the impact of rising sea levels will damage crops, leading to malnutrition and famine, and it’s a documented fact that the prevalence of mental health issues rises in the wake of extreme weather events. 

In fact, the World Health Organisation estimates that between 2030 and 2050, climate change will be responsible for around 250,000 additional deaths a year – something the BMA believes must be avoided.

 

Professor Dame Parveen Kumar, BMA board of science chair, said: “The impact that climate change is already having on global population health is incredibly worrying, but to know it could get worse without decisive action is truly terrifying. 

“Doctors in the UK are now seeing patients suffering with the effects that climate change is having on their health, and it’s devastating because this is totally avoidable – particularly the impact it can have on children’s health and those living in urbanised areas. 

“The BMA has been committed to doing its bit to help tackle climate change; last year, we published two reports looking into making the NHS greener and more sustainable, as well as taking steps to make our own premises more eco-friendly - but we’re never going to see the change that’s needed without global collaboration.  

“World leaders have a moral responsibility to protect public health, which is why they must take COP26 and the promises they make there, seriously. If they don’t, the consequences are simple: the health of the global population and future generations will be at stake.” 

ENDS

Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.