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Modi Mwatsama: Good afternoon everyone. It’s wonderful to be here and great to see so many of you. I’m going to be speaking in a personal capacity. I work at the Wellcome Trust. I’m a nutritionist by background and I’ve also got a background in public health, but I will speaking in a personal capacity. Specifically talking about the co-benefits of action on climate for health.#
So this slide basically shows household emissions in the UK in 1990, 2017, and 2050. Whilst there have been some reductions since 1990 in greenhouse gas emissions, we still have a way to go if we were to meet the 2050 net zero target. And the sectors which need to have the largest reductions to get to net zero include heating, transport, and agriculture. So I’m going to be talking about the co-benefits for action in those three sectors for health.#
Heating and housing: we know that houses need to be more energy efficient. They’re currently rated on a scale from A to E. The ones in the green (A-C) are the energy efficient level that we should be aiming for. But the housing stock in the UK currently is not energy efficient largely. So the latest updated statistic from 2019 shows for instance in England and Wales 68% of households are not energy efficient. These inefficient homes are more likely to be cold, and cold homes are associated with high levels of poor health, particularly in the winter. There is a rise in levels of heart disease, stroke, and respiratory conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. As a result 24,000 excess winter deaths occur in England and Wales each year. Children are also affected from living in cold homes and are more likely to suffer from asthma. We’ve heard about the solutions to tackling cold homes which includes improving the energy efficiency of homes. That is very expensive – things like replacing boilers and draughty windows costs a lot of money. But there will be benefits to health. One study, for instance, has estimated that solving cold homes will save the NHS £848 million per year in England alone. So there will be benefits from these investments.#
Moving on to transport and air pollution. Transport is the most significant contributor to air pollution in the outdoor space. Driving cars and petrol and diesel cars leads to the emission of particulate matters and nitrogen oxide into the air. Breathing in these pollutants is linked to a wide variety of health conditions, ranging from low birth weight, stunted birth development and lung development in children, to diseases like heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and diabetes and obesity in adults. The causes depend on the types of particulates that are inhaled and where they end up in the body – so lots of health conditions are related. 40,000 deaths in the UK occur because of air pollution. The most effective solutions to tackling air pollution is actually switching from cars to active forms of transport. To do this we need the government to invest in infrastructure, such a more public transport, cycle lanes and cycle parking facilities, and accessible pavements for people to encourage people to get out and walk more. Again, these are investments which will take time and cost money, but they will be highly effective and cost effective. For example, one study has found – from the UK Climate Change Committee – that just a 5% shift from car travel to other forms of travel such as walking, cycling, would provide benefits to the economy by around 0.5% of GDP by 2030.#
And finally, going on to the area of diet and agriculture. Red meat and dairy have the largest greenhouse gas emissions of all foods. In the UK and Europe around three quarters of agriculture subsidies currently go to the livestock sector. At the same time, eating excess red and processed meat is linked to conditions such as a raised risk of colon cancer, heart disease in people. We currently as a population are eating more meat on average than is needed for optimal health. So there is scope for us to reduce the amounts that we are eating in a way that will also benefit the environment. And so recent scientific reports from the UK and internationally have recommended halving the consumption of meat and dairy in order to improve our health but also to keep our consumption within the planetary limits. The main solutions to this – to solving this problem – there are a wide variety, but the nub of them is aiming to support people to switch to less and better forms of meat and dairy and replacing those meat and dairy products with plant based foods, particularly increasing things like pulses, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, which will also help to increase fibre intakes, which currently is low in the population as well. So less and better is the solution. Food service providers from public and private sectors should source and offer more less and better options – in terms of meat – and also we need to have things like environment impact labels to help people choose the better forms of meat and dairy that can be associated with lower environmental impacts, and also lower health impacts. Thank you.
Sarah: Thank you very much, Modi.. .
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