RCPCH joins global call for emergency action to tackle climate change

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has joined calls for emergency action to limit global temperature increases, restore biodiversity, and protect health.

The College’s two journals, Archives of Disease in Childhood and BMJ Paediatrics Open, along with over 200 health journals around the world, have taken part in publishing a global editorial produced by the UK Health Alliance for Climate Change (UKHACC) that was released today in the lead up to COP26.

The joint editorial calls for emergency action to transform societies and economies as health risks related to the global temperature increases above 1.5°C are now well established. Many governments are setting targets to reach net-zero emissions, but to achieve these targets, they must make fundamental changes to how societies and economies are organised.

The College recognises the importance of using collective voices to support the Government to take action.

Dr Camilla Kingdon, President of the RCPCH, said:

We are pleased to join health professionals worldwide in supporting calls for rapid action to limit the health implications of climate change. As a medical Royal College and a member of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, we aim to focus our efforts on placing the impact on health at the heart of climate change activity. By using our collective voice and expertise as paediatricians, we are determined to influence the national and international climate change agenda.

In October 2020, the College joined many other organisations in declaring a climate emergency, highlighting the detrimental impacts of air pollution on younger people. Climate change has been identified as a priority in the new College strategy for 2021-24, and efforts are underway to establish a comprehensive programme of work that will be driven by College members, which is being led by a dedicated Climate Change Working Group (CCWG).

Dr Kingdon added:

We must join in the work to achieve environmentally sustainable health systems by 2040. Through our climate change working group, we will be doing all we can to support this ambition, in addition to advancing research on the effects of climate change on child health and highlighting the health impacts faced by children and young people now and in the future.

The College continues to work with healthcare organisations, including the Greener NHS Team in their vision, “To deliver the world’s first net zero health service and respond to climate change, improving health now and for future generations”.

The World Health Organization has described climate change as “the defining health challenge of our time”. Climate change has known impacts on the social and environmental determinants of health – affecting clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. Children are among the most vulnerable to these resulting health risks and will be exposed to the health consequences for longer.

Air pollution is the single greatest environmental threat to public health. Many of the causes of air pollution are major contributors to climate change. The effects of air pollution can start before birth and are shown to have a greater impact on babies, children, and young people. These effects are particularly damaging because they can have a lifelong impact and those with existing health conditions are even more vulnerable.

As COP26 approaches in November, the College will be continuing to work alongside health professionals across the world to highlight the impacts of climate change on global child health.