Conservative, SNP and Brexit Party pledges score worse for tackling climate change than those of the Greens, Labour and Lib Dems, analysts suggest.
A group of NHS staff, including GPs, emergency medics and public health doctors, and environmental researchers from Imperial College London, analysed the manifestos and scored their climate change commitments.
They created a scorecard of the results, comparing the major parties. The analysis is detailed today in a Rapid Response in the British Medical Journal.
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The Green party comes top of the list (with a score of 5/5), followed by Labour (4.5/5) and the Liberal Democrats (4/5). Plaid Cymru are ranked fourth (2.5/5), followed by the SNP and the Conservatives (both 2/5) and finally the Brexit Party (0/5).
Climate and health 'intrinsically linked'
The authors, including Dr Iain Staffell from Imperial’s Centre for Environmental Policy and Dr Oytun Babacan from Imperial’s Grantham Institute – Climate Change and Environment, say climate change and health are intrinsically linked.
We know that the next government will need to take urgent action in order to help keep global heating to below 1.5 degrees by 2100, so we wanted to better understand what different political parties are planning and what impact their policies are likely to have. Dr Iain Staffell
We need a stable climate to support the ecosystems that enable us to have clean water, air and nutritious food. Climate change is predicted to cause extreme weather events, disrupt food and water supplies, and lead to displacement and conflict. All of these could increase the spread of infectious diseases and cause rising food poverty.
The authors say evidence suggests the target of net zero emissions by 2050 (as adopted by the UK Parliament in June 2019) is inadequate to protect health and wellbeing.
Dr Staffell said: “We are already seeing the life-changing effects of climate change across the world, and climate breakdown presents a devastating threat to health, both globally and in the UK.
"We know that the next government will need to take urgent action in order to help keep global heating to below 1.5 degrees by 2100, so we wanted to better understand what different political parties are planning and what impact their policies are likely to have.”
Scoring the manifestos
The team scoped out ten policy areas selected to cover the largest potential health ‘co-benefits’ resulting from action on climate change, and polled UK health professionals to find the five criteria they thought were most relevant to health.
They then scored party manifestos on each criterion as 0 (no policy or policies that counter the aim), 0.5 (positive but incomplete policy) or 1 (comprehensive and evidence-based policy).
The five policy areas were:
- Decarbonisation and green investment – such as the speed of emissions reductions planned and the amount to be invested in low-carbon economic transformation
- Clear air – such as a commitment to World Health Organisation standards in a Clean Air Act and specific plans for achieving this.
- Transport – such as investment in active travel (walking and cycling) and local public transport, and planned phase-out of diesel and petrol vehicles
- Food and farming – such as a commitment to’ carbon labelling’ of food and promotion of diets lower in red and processed meat.
- Green homes – such as the number of homes to be insulated per year and amount to be spent.
The authors write: “Good health for our families, our patients and our communities depends on a stable climate and healthy ecosystems. The next Government’s policies must reflect these pressing concerns.”
Dr Staffell and Dr Babacan have declared no competing interests. Some but not all of the other Rapid Response authors are affiliated with the climate and health grassroots advocacy organisation Health Declares Climate Emergency and/or Doctors for Extinction Rebellion. One author is a member of the Green Party and another is a member of the Labour Party. A full list of the authors’ competing interests can be found at the bottom of the response.
'Why this General Election must be a climate election - for our health' by Yas Barzin, Isobel Braithwaite, Anya Göpfert, Chris Newman, Ruth Speare, Sarah Gentry, Oytun Babacan and Iain Staffell is a Rapid Response in the British Medical Journal.
Read more about the methods.
Article text (excluding photos or graphics) © Imperial College London.
Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or © Imperial College London.
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