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8th November 2023

Why you should join a mass lobby of MPs to call for no new oil

On 21 November there will be a mass lobby of members of parliament in London to call for no further expansion of fossil fuel exploration. (People in other countries might do the same.) Richard Smith has written the letter below to his MP and urges you to write to yours.

Reasons for the campaign are explained here: 

You can sign up here:

And here’s a template for writing to your MP, but feel free to borrow from the letter below: 

Dear Florence Eshalomi,

I am a constituent of yours, a doctor, and the chair of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change. The Alliance brings together 46 organisations of health professionals, including most of the royal colleges (physicians, nurses, GPs, surgeons, pharmacists, etc), the BMA, the Lancet, and the BMJ. Altogether our members’ members number over a million, most of the NHS workforce.

As I’m sure you understand, the climate and nature crisis is a health crisis. UKHACC works to mitigate the climate and nature crisis, encourage adaptation as harm to health is already here, and promote the benefits that will flow to health if we make the changes we need to make to respond to the climate and nature crisis.

I would if possible like to meet with you on 21 November to discuss with you the climate and nature crisis and speak with you about the government’s and Labour’s approach to new fossil fuel projects.  You are likely to receive letters from other constituents, and I would be happy to join with them to meet you.

As you will know, the Prime Minister has announced plans to grant over 100 new oil and gas licences and approved the Rosebank oil field, aiming to ‘max out’ fossil fuel production in the North Sea. Keir Starmer, has publicly committed to abide by any fossil fuel contracts signed, effectively endorsing these contracts, and exposing the government, and thereby the public, to financial penalty should attempts be made to reverse these decisions. I understand why he has done this, but I think it a mistake.

I fear that many MPs do not understand the seriousness of the threat to health and our whole way of life from the climate and nature crisis. WHO has declared climate change to be the major threat to global health. The world is seeing harm to health from floods, wildfires, heatwaves, extreme storms, extension of infectious diseases (pandemics have the same root causes as the climate and nature crisis), and shortages of food, water, and land, driving forced migration and coflict. Mental health is severely affected, and air pollution, which largely results from the burning of fossil fuels, kills seven million people a year.

The UK has not yet experienced the extensive harm that is already being experienced in countries like Bangladesh, which I know well, but people in Britain are suffering now from floods, heatwaves, extreme storms, and air pollution; and the mental health of many people, particularly the young, is harmed now. What is not well understood is that these harms will grown exponentially worse without moves like stopping all new exploration of fossil fuels. UK health leaders are unified in their opposition to fossil fuel expansion. 

Instead, we should be investing in improving homes, a move that will improve health, help with the cost of living crisis, and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

As I said, I understand why Keir Starmer has promised to stand by signed contracts, but could he not argue that there ought first be an independent review of Rosebank’s impact on health and its compatibility of Britain’s legal commitment to be carbon net-zero by 2050? Such a review would, I think, show both the damage to health and the incompatibility with legally-binding targets. The argument for a review would probably be enough to stop contracts being signed.

I hope that we will be able to meet and discuss these issues of great importance.

Yours faithfully

Dr Richard Smith CBE, FMedSci, FRCPE

Chair, UK Health Alliance on Climate Change