Programme for Government – action needed on air pollution

By June Shannon Policy News   |   22nd Jun 2020

The Climate and Health Alliance welcomes the proposed Programme for Government but warns more needs to be done to mitigate the health impacts of climate change

The Climate and Health Alliance, an all-island coalition of public health organisations and advocacy groups that highlight the negative public health impacts of climate change, has welcomed the environmental measures contained in the proposed Programme for Government.

According to the Alliance, of which the Irish Heart Foundation is a member, as climate change is the defining crisis of our times, it is encouraging that the proposed Programme for Government plans to address global warming, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing economic cost.

The Alliance stated that the commitment contained in the programme for government document to reduce Ireland’s overall greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 7 per cent a year from 2021 to 2030 and the ambitious target to achieve zero emissions by 2050, has “the unequivocal support of the Alliance” as it can “unlock the significant health benefits by tackling global warming.”

Poor air quality is responsible for an estimated 1,500 premature deaths in Ireland a year

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However, the Alliance believes that the document does not go far enough in tackling the major environmental health risk of air pollution.

Poor air quality is responsible for an estimated 1,500 premature deaths in Ireland a year, so only a Clean Air Act that includes an immediate nationwide smoky fuel ban, more rigorous air quality standards and sufficient resources to ensure strict air quality enforcement by local authorities, will be enough to prevent countless more lives being tragically lost to air pollution, the Alliance stated.

‘’This government must ensure that the public is protected from the dangers of air pollution which the WHO describes as the ‘single biggest environmental health risk’. The planned National Clean Air Strategy included in the programme is welcome but long overdue and frankly inadequate to protect public health’’ said Alliance spokesperson and CEO of the Irish Heart Foundation, Dr Tim Collins.

‘’Hugely encouraging is the 20 per cent of the total transport budget allocated to pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, and the aim to dramatically increase the number of children walking and cycling to school. Not only can this instill a culture of active travel into a whole new generation, it can transform our physical built environment for the better and shift the number of journeys made away from driving and towards walking and cycling. This can subsequently reduce air pollution levels, increase physical activity, and improve mental health and wellbeing, all significant co-benefits of climate action,” he added.

"This government must ensure that the public is protected from the dangers of air pollution which the WHO describes as the ‘single biggest environmental health risk,"

Tim Collins, Spokesperson Climate and Health Alliance, and CEO of The Irish Heart Foundation

The Alliance also welcomed the commitment in the Programme for Government document to expand the Agriculture Sustainably Support and Advisory Panel, produce a more diverse range of food for our domestic needs, and transform the scale of organic farming.

Recently both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change and the EAT Lancet Commission highlighted the shift that must take place in our diets away from red meat and sugar to more plant-based foods.

“The public health impact arising from climate change is too often overlooked but the majority of measures included in this Programme for Government can create the groundwork to achieve a healthier, more sustainable, and greener Ireland. Although a myriad of fiscal and political challenges lie ahead before any of these policies and commitments can be implemented, the Climate and Health Alliance welcomes vast swathes of this Programme for Government and the ambitious targets it has set. We look forward to working with this new government,” the Alliance stated.

Established in 2019, the Climate and Health Alliance membership includes, The Irish Heart Foundation, the British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland, The Irish Cancer Society, The Irish College of General Practitioners, Irish Doctors for the Environment, The Irish Medical Organisation, The National Children’s Hospital, The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, The Stroke Association Northern Ireland and UCC The School of Public Health at UCC.

We are here for you

The Irish Heart Foundation’s nurse support line is available five days a week. Anyone living with heart disease and stroke who has concerns or questions about the coronavirus can contact the nurse support line on 01 668 5001 or support@irishheart.ie.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s new heart support group is on Facebook. Anyone who lives with heart failure or another heart condition or has a family member living with a heart condition can join here: www.facebook.com/groups/heartsupportnetwork/

The Irish Heart Foundation runs 21 stroke support groups and 5 heart failure groups around the country. All these groups have moved to telephone and online support. For more information, see https://irishheart.ie/get-support/.

The Irish Heart Foundation in conjunction with the HSE National Stroke Programme, has launched a new telephone support service for stroke patients who have recently been discharged from hospital. For more information, see here.

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If you found this article helpful and would like to donate to the Irish Heart Foundation please see here.

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air pollution climate action climate change environment global warming plant based diet The Climate and Health Alliance

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