Update on our climate change activity

Liz Marder, RCPCH treasurer and Chair of the RCPCH Climate Change Working Group, marks Earth Day by sharing an update on our climate change activity.
Liz on a lockdown walk
Liz on a lockdown walk

The 20-22 April 2021 sees three days of climate action, culminating in Earth Day on 22 April. So it feels timely to update you on the climate change work we have been engaged in at the College since we declared a climate emergency in October 2020. 

Climate change poses a significant threat to human health and wellbeing. Whilst the effects are widespread across all areas of the population worldwide, there is a disproportionate impact on children and young people, who are particularly vulnerable to the environmental effects of temperature rise, extreme weather events, air pollution and changing patterns of infectious disease. 

As part of our role in advocating for children and young people and promoting their health and well-being, 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. We support 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.” As members of the UK Health Alliance for Climate Change, we join a national coalition of health professionals in calling for a #HealthyRecovery from COVID-19 – one that improves human health, and builds resilience in health systems, and in the environment upon which our health depends.

A whole College priority

We all have a part to play as activists – doctors, the NHS, schools, parents, children and young people 


We have appointed a strategic projects manager to coordinate our climate change work right across the College, and put out a call for members to be involved. We were overwhelmed but delighted by almost a hundred responses from a diverse range of UK based and international members. From these applications we have selected Chairs for five dedicated workstreams and all other volunteers are being allocated to one of the groups. 

It was very exciting to Chair the first meeting of the Oversight Group in March, which draws together and oversees all of our climate activity. There was a real buzz in the air as we brought together the five College members who will be chairing the workstreams and heard about the wealth of skills and experience they bring with them. They are:

  1. Advocating for change. Chair - Katie Knight
  2. Research into climate change impact on CYP. Chair - Ray Nethercott 
  3. Towards a sustainable building and resources. Chair - Helena Clements 
  4. Support for members. Chair - Emily Payne 
  5. International. Chair - Bernadette O'Hare

Give us a chance to have an impact on climate change


Alongside this we are establishing an Expert Reference group, chaired by our President Elect Camilla Kingdon, which will bring together experts in the field to advise our work. We will be working closely with RCPCH &Us to ensure that the voice of Children and Young People is included across all our workstreams.

Look out for the initial outputs from the workstreams in the next few months with a dedicated area on the College website to keep everyone updated. We will prioritise this work in the 2021-24 strategy and by the end of this the work will be firmly embedded in College activity. 

Using our voice

We also have an exciting opportunity this year to participate in the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow in November. This will be a chance to hear about the work going on around the world as well as showcase and test out some of our ideas and to give the Children and Young People who work with the College an opportunity to have their voices heard. 

This year’s Earth Day theme is “Restore Our Earth”, which focuses on the notion that a healthy planet is a necessity. We need innovative thinking to restore the world’s ecosystems and secure our planet for future generations. As a College we are in a unique position, with thousands of members around the world who care passionately about the health of children and young people and their future. We hope that through our work across the next three years we can put our strength of voice to good use.