The Faculty of Public Health is deeply concerned that the UK Government has approved the development of the controversial Rosebank oil field. Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) clearly indicated that all governments must say no to all new fossil fuel projects and urgently deliver on a transition to renewable energy if we want a healthy and liveable planet.
Climate change is our biggest global health challenge of this century, and fossil fuels are its main driving cause. Nationally, the UK is becoming and predicted to continue becoming milder and wetter in winter as well as hotter and drier in summer, with increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather, including severe heatwaves.
Oil and gas extraction, and continued reliance on fossil fuels, have significant impacts on our local communities for example through air pollution, oil spills and fires. The climate change-related health impacts occur at every stage of life including increased risk of pregnancy and birth complications, heart attacks, strokes, asthma and respiratory illnesses, stress, anxiety and death. And we know that climate related health risks, such as those from heatwaves and flooding, disproportionately affect disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, as well as children and older people. The impacts of climate change will get worse if we do not urgently phase out fossil fuels.
There needs to be concerted and consistent investment in, development of, and transition to, renewable energy sources by our Government. An accelerated transition to renewable energy will lead to more sustainable, secure and affordable energy systems for everyone. This transition will also lead to substantial health cost savings, create new green jobs and bring about savings that outweigh the costs associated with transition. For example, analysis by the International Energy Agency has shown a net overall job gain even when taking into consideration the required changes to the fossil fuel sector. Additionally, investment to reduce energy demand for homes, buildings and transport with energy efficiency measures, such as retrofitting, and prioritising active and public travel is vital, and all benefit health, by increasing active travel and reducing air pollution.
In the context of an energy crisis caused by fossil fuel dependency, with widespread health and financial impacts felt by society, the approval of the largest undeveloped oil field in the UK is a decision with far-reaching implications for public health and the wellbeing of our population.