Health and Climate Event in the Scottish Parliament

Thursday, 14 March 2024

Attendees at the event

Picture of a room inside the Scottish Parliament with attendees facing a panel of speakers including Christine Grahame MSP and Maree Todd MSP

The climate crisis is a health crisis – and climate solutions are health solutions too!

Quakers in Scotland and Medact put on an event on 13 March 2024 in the Scottish Parliament to inform our elected representatives about the important links between climate and health. MSPs gathered with other guests to hear about constituents’ concerns and potential solutions. This built on a Time for Reflection given in the Scottish Parliament by Lesley Morrison, a retired GP and Friend from Tweeddale, in April 2023: “Are we being good ancestors?”.

The event gave MSPs the opportunity to consider that steps to mitigate the climate crisis will bring significant positive benefits not just for planetary health but for individual patient health. MSPs were encouraged to look at all decision the Parliament makes through the lens of climate and health.

Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport Maree Todd took the time to attend and spoke about the importance that the Scottish Government places on reducing the health service’s emissions and enabling Scots to live productive and healthy lives.

We heard from speakers including:

  • Martin Pippard, a Friend from Dundee and a doctor, who spoke on the links between climate and respiratory disease.
  • Pete Ritchie, executive director of Nourish Scotland who spoke about the impact of food and farming on health.
  • Bridget Bradley, a social anthropology lecturer from the University of St Andrews, who is currently researching eco-anxiety.
  • Isabelle, a young person who spoke about the impact that the climate crisis is having on young people’s mental health.

There was then time for MSPs and guests to ask questions and have a discussion with the health professionals present.

Guests also watched a film commissioned by The Lancet, looking at the Carbon Cost of Healthcare and what some NHS Trusts are doing to ensure that carbon costs are considered when prescribing appropriate care. Doctors see this as integral to their vocation to care for our health. This film is available here, and the last few minutes carry a powerful message from Lesley while she was marching with XR Medics in London.

It was great to see the engagement from MSPs in the discussion, with interventions and comments from Junior Health Minister Maree Todd, event sponsor Christine Grahame, and Maggie Chapman, with several other MSPs listening in. Maree Todd highlighted that while the climate crisis is the single biggest health threat facing all of us, in reducing our emissions and adapting to the effects of the climate crisis we have a huge opportunity to improve the nation’s – and world’s – health. We reflected that this message can sometimes be lost. It is important to focus on the health benefits which can come from improved environmental measures like low emissions zones, or moving away from polluting heating sources; for example, reduced chance of asthma attacks.

Doctors and medical practitioners can do so much to improve climate and health outcomes; but politicians “do health on a large scale”, with the potential to have even more impact on constituents’ health by seizing opportunities to influence regulations.

MSPs were given an information pack to reinforce this message and provide resources for them to respond to their constituents’ queries on the topics of climate and health. If you would like to send a copy to your MP or MSP it can be downloaded here.

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