NHS workers demand a green recovery to save lives and help the country get back on its feet

Matt Trinder

Morning Star | April 09, 2021

NHS workers protest for a pay rise for health workers outside 10 Downing Street

NHS workers are demanding a green recovery to help get the country back on its feet after Covid-19 and save thousands of lives.

In a new report published this evening, health staff say decarbonising the economy to zero emissions by 2030, 20 years ahead of the government’s target, could create jobs and prevent nearly 14,000 pollution-related deaths annually in Britain.

The Public Health Case for a Green New Deal paper, written by health workers in charity Medact’s Climate & Health Research Group, calls for the NHS to play its part in systemic change to combat health inequalities and climate collapse.

The report’s authors, who work in roles from nurses to GPs and public health academics, set out the links between public health, climate breakdown and economic policies, saying that our economy is making “both people and the planet sick.”

Decarbonising the energy system and investing in green technology could save lives and create 46,000 jobs in the north of England alone, the report argues.

The authors stress health workers could play a unique role by drawing attention to the health impacts of social and environmental injustice.

Citing work by independent charity the Health Foundation and progressive group the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, the report shows that NHS trusts as “anchor institutions” rooted in communities can model the kind of changes needed across society.

Junior doctor and Medact health campaigner Ben Eder said decarbonising the economy quickly would act as “preventive, life-saving medicine.”

“We need collective action now to end the health, economic and environmental injustices that are killing people in our communities — and health workers have a unique voice [in doing that],” he added.

British Medical Journal executive editor Kamran Abbasi said: “Policymakers can no longer point to a lack of evidence on the links between health and wealth.

“A world driven by wealth and corporate profits has failed to respond adequately to a global pandemic, and the same applies many times over to the climate crisis.”

Institute of Health Equity Sir Michael Marmot warned the problems of inequalities and the climate crisis were “linked.”

He added: “The climate crisis, like most external threats, is likely to exaggerate inequalities in health and wellbeing. We must ensure that dealing with one of these threats does not make the other worse.”

Grassroots campaign group Labour for a Green New Deal welcomed the involvement of health workers in the fight for change.

A spokesperson said: “This report makes it clear that the effects of climate change will hit poorer communities hardest.

“The climate issue is a class issue, with the mega-rich polluting our planet and working-class people picking up the tab.”

PM Boris Johnson has described climate change as a threat to national security, but campaigners have accused him of hypocrisy.

His crucial project to cut emissions from home heating — the Green Homes Grant — has recently been scrapped. The PM has also permitted a new coal mine in Cumbria to go ahead while urging other nations to relinquish fossil fuels.

Green New Deal Group co-founder Andrew Simms said: “Health workers are on the front line of the crises of climate, ecology and inequality facing humanity, and see the clear links between them. The case for [change] is urgent.

“To protect Britain from the upheaval of climate breakdown, and reap the benefits from creating millions of good green jobs in the process, the government has to go beyond its inadequate plans, and implement a transformative Green New Deal.”

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