The climate emergency poses an existential threat to population health in the UK and across the world, and its effects are especially detrimental to the health and wellbeing of children and young people. As young bodies are still developing, the impacts of air pollution on younger people - such as stunted lung growth and function - include irreversible damage that can lead to problems later in life.
As part of our role in advocating for children and young people and promoting their health and wellbeing, we have a responsibility to engage in activities to address climate change. We are pleased to be working with a number of like-minded groups and organisations across the health sector in prioritising this work.
A member-submitted motion was passed at the 2020 College AGM, which called on RCPCH to:
- Publicly declare a climate and ecological emergency
- Form a working group on environmental sustainability to allow a faster transition to a net zero carbon health care system
- Incorporate sustainability and climate change into teaching curricula
- Strengthen the College’s current policy to divest from fossil fuels.
We have formed a Climate Change Working Group (known as the CCWG) to oversee our programme of activity to address the broader issues raised by this motion. The remit of the group includes:
- Our investment policy
- Greening our workplace/building
- Advocacy and policy work
- Our work with stakeholders
- Curriculum and education
- Our carbon footprint.
The resulting College climate change programme will roll out in earnest throughout 2021-2024, and will involve:
- Significant engagement with members, a resource hub on the website, and dedicated sessions at the College annual conference and other College forums
- Working in collaboration with other healthcare organisations, such as the UK Health Alliance for Climate Change, and the Greener NHS Team
- International influencing work aimed at the UN Climate Change Conference COP26, as well as participation in it by College members
- Coordinating and promoting research and advocacy on climate change and its impact on children and young people
- A carbon audit of the College itself and an action plan to reduce its carbon footprint.
Introducing the RCPCH Climate Change Working Group
The programme is divided into five workstreams, each with a named lead who reports into the Oversight Group.
- Advocating for change | Chair - Dr Katie Knight
- Research into climate change impact on children and young people | Chair - Dr Ray Nethercott
- Towards a sustainable building and resources | Chair - Dr Helena Clements
- Support for members. Chair | Dr Emily Payne
- International. Chair | Dr Bernadette O'Hare
Around 80 College members - from medical students to retired consultants, from those living in our UK nations to those working internationally - have volunteered to join us over the next three years.
Alongside this dynamic group of members we are establishing an Expert Reference group, chaired by our President Camilla Kingdon, which will bring together experts in the field to advise our work. We will also be working closely with RCPCH &Us to ensure that the voice of Children and Young People is included across all our workstreams.
We have prioritised this work in the 2021-24 strategy and by the end of this the work will be firmly embedded in College activity. The initial outputs from the workstreams, including detail of our aims and ambitions, will be published in autumn 2021.