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Lancet 2020 Co-Benefits Report: A summary

October 2020 by Louise Harling

The Grantham Institute of Imperial College London recently published their latest journal article within Lancet Planet Health 2020. The article ‘Mapping the co-benefits of climate change action to issues of public concern in the UK’, reports how the UK needs to reach net-zero carbon by 2050, and what the co-benefits to taking such actions have the potential to achieve. This paper uses the reduction strategies outlined to avoid 1.5°C warming to link the co-benefits of climate action to wider social issues in the UK. This aims to prioritise decarbonisation whilst aiding public support for decisions which consider wider public, social and economic issues. We strongly encourage for such co-benefits of climate action to be included in all Carbon Literacy courses, therefore having a paper outlining this so clearly is an excellent resource for both ourselves, our trainers, and, of course, your learners.

We have taken the time to pull-out some key figures and quotes which we think trainers (particularly those working within the healthcare sector) might be interested to include within their training:

  • Since 2009, the annual growth of gross domestic product in the UK has been between 1·5% and 3·1%, whereas the green economy has consistently grown at around 5%. The UK Clean Growth Strategy suggests that the low-carbon sector has the potential to grow by 11% per year between 2015 and 2030.
    Traditionally, a healthy economy means more money can be spent on public services, including improvements in healthcare, and which helps to promote action on climate change as the green economy has a better return on investment.
  • World Health Organisation reports estimate that the economic cost to the UK economy of premature deaths from air pollution is approximately £54 billion a year.
    Decarbonisation and limiting reliance on fossil fuels will have positive repercussions in terms of air quality, which will in turn directly improve human health, particularly around respiratory illnesses.
  • The WHO also reports that in the winter period between 2016 and 2017, there were an estimated 34 300 excess winter deaths in the UK.
    As climate change accelerates, and our climate becomes more unstable, we can expect more intense and prolonged periods of cold weather. Action on climate change can work to reduce the number of future premature deaths.
  • The impact of cold homes on the physical and mental health of residents has a substantial financial cost to the NHS, estimated to be £2·5 billion per year, this can be compared to the annual NHS spending from 2016-17 of £144 billion. Investing £1·00 in keeping homes warm is estimated to save the NHS £0·42 in direct health-care costs. 
    Actions to make homes warmer, such as installing loft and cavity wall insulation and switching from single to double-glazing, also make homes cheaper to run by lowering the amount of electricity and gas needed to heat the home. This, in turn, directly reduces the quantity of greenhouse gasses being emitted.
  • Worldwide, livestock is responsible for approximately 14·5% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
    Over the last few years, there’s been a sharp uptake in those adopting plant-based diets across the UK, due partially to recent international reports linking high intakes of red and processed meat to an increased risk of colorectal cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Limiting meat and dairy consumption can also have a significant impact on reducing your personal carbon footprint.
  • In 2017, the low-carbon and renewable energy sector in the UK were worth £44·5 billion and accounted for 209,500 full-time equivalent jobs, or around 400,000 UK jobs when the full supply chain is taken into account.
    Unemployment has a negative impact on human health due to physical and mental stresses caused by financial instability. Providing job opportunities for people reduces reliance on the welfare state, whilst giving people a purpose in transforming the economy and removing the reliance on dangerous fossil fuels that are damaging to human health.

For those interested to learn more about the co-benefits of climate action and public health, we’d recommend taking a look through the full article here.

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