Issues to raise with your MP on health and climate change
On this page you will find a range of issues relating to health and climate change that you may choose to discuss with your MP. We are able to provide further briefings on any of the issues below- contact us if you would like one! It can be useful to send a briefing to your MP ahead of the meeting, so that they may familiarize themselves with your chosen issue. Also, providing your MP with an A4 side of information can be beneficial to your MP. As they have to know a little about a lot of issues, many MPs are grateful for a summary of an issue that impacts their local constituents.
Case Study: Bristol
Having an example of where steps have been taken to increase active travel can be useful to discuss with your MP, to show them how improving health through active travel can play out in practice.
From 2008, Bristol City Council recognized the health benefits that active travel could have for residents. 20mph speed limits were implemented across the city, work was carried out to increase road safety, and new cycle and pedestrian schemes were rolled out. Key outcomes of this include:
- Commuting by car is no longer the norm for residents under 40
- More people in Bristol now walk or cycle to work than in any other local authority in England and Wales.
- Between 2001 and 2011 commuting on foot increased by 40% and commuting by bike increased by 94%
Promote active travel
Transport now contributes to 26% of the UK’s greenhouse gases, more than any other sector in the UK. Active travel can bring about major health benefits and improve quality of life, as well as reducing air pollution associated with transport.
However, since the 1950s, the number of people taking part in active travel has progressively declined. Between 1995 and 2013 the total distance walked declined by 30% and distance cycled declined by 20% since 1952 (RCPCH). Health advantages of increasing the number of people involved include reducing obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and improved mental health (UKHACC). The estimated cost to the NHS for treating obesity and related death in England was £4.2billion in 2007 (UKHACC). The NHS could save an estimated £17 billion over the next 20 years if walking and cycling is increased across England and Wales (Lancet). Therefore, the incentive for active travel, in terms of reducing the cost burden to the NHS is very clear. However currently investment into active transport represents only a tiny fractions of the annual amount spent on transport (RCPCH).
Overall, active travel is a cost effective way to increase physical activity and reduce health issues whilst reducing emissions at the same time.
Promote alternatives to diesel and petrol vehicles
In the UK today, approximately half of cars run on diesel. However, on a national level, incentives for the take up of electric vehicles have recently stalled. As of 1st April 2018, changes were made to vehicle excise duty, meaning that all new cars pay the same tax, irrelevant of pollution volumes. You could ask your MPs opinion on this. After being more aware of the health impacts of such a change, your MP may be willing to ask a question on whether the health impacts of vehicle pollutants were considered when changes to vehicle excise duty were implemented.
The UK is placed to take advantage for new markets for EVs. Global annual sales of EVs jumped 60% in 2016. Britain is currently the fourth largest vehicle producer in Europe, producing 1.68 million vehicles and 2.37 engines in 2015. Around 80% of these are exported to more than 100 countries. A survey by Jaguar Land Rover found that according to the public, lack of infrastructure (charging points) is the main obstacle to buying an Electric Vehicle. Every major manufacturer now has an Electric vehicle in prototype phase. Despite these multi-million investments, the UK Government has spent far less on installing the necessary infrastructure. Now that the target to stop the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 is in place, you can talk to your MP about the need to increase the infrastructure to allow this industry to grow and so that Britain can take advantage of this growing market. Another key ask, would be talking to your MP about the need to bring forward the ban on fossil fuel cars by 10 years, to 2030. Green Alliance say that a 2030 target would 'reduce the current gap in meeting the UK’s carbon budgets by 60-85 per cent.'
Expand clean air zones and implement in other cities
Linked to the promotion of active travel, the expansion of clean air zones will promote active transport by providing walkable and car free areas. In urban centres in the UK, diesel engines account for 40% of air pollution (UKHACC). Sadiq Khan recently confirmed that London’s ultra low emissions zone would expand out to the north and south circular road boundaries, covering a massive area, with polluting vehicles having to pay £12.50 a day. Government approval would dramatically increase the political cover, which would spur more local authorities into implementing such schemes. You can talk to your MP about speaking in favour of clean air zones, and supporting the local council in implementing such a scheme.
Retain and improve EU air quality standards
In 2008 the EU implemented the Ambient Air Quality Directive which set legally binding limits for pollutant concentrations. All EU directives have to be transposed into national law, and this directive required that EU member states must monitor air quality and prepare plans for achieving objectives. However, the UK currently breaches nitrogen dioxide limits set by the European Union in 44 out of 51 British towns and cities (World Health Organization). For example, by February 2018, London had already breached its legal nitrogen dioxide levels for the whole year. However this is a slight improvement from 2017, when it took just 5 days.
You could raise your concerns with your MP that as the UK is currently in breach of EU regulations regarding air quality, you are worried that Brexit air quality controls may slip further. Whilst decisions are being made, you could ask your MP to ask a question around what the government plans to do to retain EU level standards, to ensure further health effects aren’t realized.
Given that some of the most deprived communities are exposed to the highest levels of air pollution, you can ask your MP to prioritize action here if this is an issue in your constituency. This higher exposure to poor communities results in a 10 year average gap in life expectancy (RCPCH) making this issue really important for many communities around the UK.
Effective air pollution monitoring
The effective monitoring must track changes and exposure to harmful pollutants in your local area. You can ask your MP to find out who is in charge of air pollution monitoring if they are not already aware, and ask them to share with you their findings. All of this information should be totally transparent to the public. This can also help educate your MP, providing a ‘reward’ in terms of improving their local knowledge. Once you have the results, you may choose to work on a strategy with your MP, perhaps to tackle high pollution levels adjacent to a local school playground for example.
Date of Publication: 10.05.2018