Medical leaders have called on the UK government to halt new oil and gas exploration to avoid further damage to the nation’s health.
A letter, signed by the British Medical Association and the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Paediatricians, Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and Psychiatrists, urged an end to the country’s dependence on fossil fuels to tackle climate change and fuel poverty.
The medical institutions, along with more than 600 individual health professionals, said there should be an immediate end to new North Sea oil and gas licences. They also called for an equitable energy transition to renewables.
The letter to the Prime Minister said a consultation on 30 new offshore oil and gas fields contradicted international recommendations against further fossil fuel developments.
The United Nations Environment Programme and the International Energy Agency said last year that development of new oil and gas fields must stop if the world was to meet the global warming limit of 1.5C.
The medics’ letter said:
“The country is facing two crises with the same underlying cause: the UK’s continued reliance on expensive and polluting fossil fuels for its energy supply.
“Millions of UK households face real energy poverty, whilst the impacts of climate change are already affecting the country.
The letter said:
“as healthcare professionals, we know that any new fossil fuel projects and their contribution to climate change constitute a grave threat to our patients and the resilience of our healthcare system”.
It said energy poverty, driven by rising bills, would lead to worsening health and increased winter deaths. It called for emergency support for vulnerable households.
The letter also called for end to subsidies for oil and gas extraction, redirection of funds to green industry and an end to the policy of Maximum Economic Recovery (MER) for the North Sea.
Dr Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said:
“It seems utterly wrong that at a time when the role of fossil fuels in climate change is better understood than ever, that anyone should think that drilling for oil is a good thing.
“The climate change we are witnessing is on a scale that is already harming health and will only get worse. Any short-term profits will soon be forgotten by everyone living with the consequences.”
Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said:
“We must move away from our dependence on harmful fossil fuel-based energy by rejecting proposals for new oil and gas fields, and instead focus on developing sustainable, renewable and affordable alternatives that will keep us and our planet healthy.
“Not only will this benefit the nation’s mental and physical health, but it also informs an effort to ensure that the cost-of-living crisis we are currently experiencing becomes a thing of the past.
“We urge the Government to curtail activities, which we know are contributing to the climate and ecological emergencies.”
Mark Hayden, paediatric cardiac intensivist at Great Ormond Street Hospital said:
“People in the UK are now being pushed into poverty because of our over reliance on fossil fuels.
“The government must stop locking us into this expensive, polluting fuel by handing out even more licences, which it knows will lead to dangerous climate change, when it should be directing that investment into cheap, clean renewable energy.
“The health benefits of transitioning away from unaffordable fossil fuels are innumerable but the government must act to make them happen.”