COP26: public health informed action on climate change

03 November 2021

COP26 presents a unique opportunity to prevent catastrophic climate change. For Glasgow, the event shines a light on the ambitious commitments that Glasgow City Council have made to tackle the climate emergency. However, these ambitions remain distant, and rapid transformative action is now needed for the city to become carbon neutral by 2030. At GCPH we recognise the important role that public health can play in shaping action on climate change, both in terms of protecting our population from its adverse impacts and in shaping the transition from carbon reliance.

Climate justice

The term ‘climate justice’ helps us to frame climate change as an ethical issue that aligns with existing inequalities and injustices. Within Glasgow, we know that the most vulnerable people contribute the least to climate change and will be most adversely affected by it, both through local and global impacts. The severity of these impacts are shaped by a range of socioeconomic factors, including income, housing quality and tenure, transport options, geographical location, affordability of damage insurance and how well-connected people are to protective or supportive services. Achieving climate justice is therefore not separate from the existing challenges facing the city; instead, it provides further impetus to reduce inequalities and support our most vulnerable citizens.

Our work 

Action to tackle climate change aligns well with many public health priorities – for example, improving air quality and creating sustainable and resilient neighbourhoods, food systems and transport options. The GCPH’s Sustainable and Inclusive Places Programme includes several areas of work that highlight the importance of sustainability to public health, but there is now a greater onus on ensuring that this work contributes towards tackling the city’s climate emergency.

We have also initiated projects specifically designed with climate change in mind. These include Weathering Change, an action research project exploring community resilience in the face of climate change, and a small grants scheme which has supported organisations working with children and young people to produce creative outputs on the impacts of climate change on health and wellbeing. We have hosted seminars to highlight and stimulate discussion on climate change and health and have considered the sustainability of our own organisational practices.

As the dust settles from COP26 and we reflect on the implications of the global commitments made, we will consider how best to use this momentum to ensure a positive climate legacy for Glasgow’s population, and well as continuing to support Glasgow’s transition to a more sustainable and just city. 

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