CSH@COP26 Day 5: Youth empowerment and mitigating the environmental impact of healthcare

Whilst young people took to the streets of Glasgow, the COP26 conference focused on youth empowerment and inspiring change. Representing CSH at the COP26 Blue Zone, were Dr Tamsin Ellis, CSH associate, GP, and Chair of Greener Practice London, and Dr Aarti Bansal, CSH associate, GP, and Founder of The Greener Practice Network.

CSH delegates attended Al Gore’s visually impactful talk, telling a terrifying story of how the climate crisis is affecting us right now. He listed multiple extreme weather events across the globe, showing videos of those least responsible being the hardest hit. He shared the chilling fact that:

a child growing up in Warsaw today will inhale the equivalent of 1000 cigarettes in the first year of his or her life due to air pollution. A clear message that the climate crisis is a health crisis. 

In the afternoon we heard from Canadian Emergency Department physician Dr Courtney Howard about how politics is a health determinant. Asking us to ‘shift vision, shift power, shift money’, she spoke about the role of healthcare professionals supporting each other to take on politics as a new humanitarian mission. We were left feeling hopeful, that action feels better than anxiety.

Although talks today were showing the realities of climate catastrophe, the healthcare sector showed through leadership, advocacy, and collaboration how we can have an impact on our institutions, communities, and wider policy. Advocacy and agency!

We took part in a ‘die in’ - showing the conference that air pollution is killing millions right now. 

our kids climate

In the WHO pavilion, a number of CSH professionals gathered in the morning for a webinar organised by Chantelle Rizan: 'Mitigating the environmental impact of healthcare: the interplay of research, industry, government and clinical leadership’.  

At the webinar, chaired by Professor Mahmood Bhutta, of Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Dr Forbes McGain from Australia spoke of the need for curiosity and imagination and how we can do things differently; Dr Fiona Adshead, Chair of the Sustainable Healthcare Coalition, stressed the need to work together with industry as they want to change and need the market to be very clear; Dr Frances Mortimer, CSH Medical Director explained how education needs to be empowering and how sustainable principles can be integrated into healthcare education through sustainable quality improvement. The CSH experience is that SusQI supports active learning, system change and motivates healthcare professionals to act. Chantelle Rizan, Honorary Clinical Lecturer at BSMS and CSH Associate, discussed the importance of life cycle assessment research to identify carbon hotspots and change processes/procedures. Dr Venkatesh, from the Aravind Eye Centre in India, and Dr Cassandra Thiel, shared their inspiring story of how by focusing on improving the patient experience they reduced infection rates and delivered cataract surgery at 5% of the carbon footprint of western medical institutions!

BSMS webinar

We call on governments and health sector leads to develop and fund expertise and infrastructure for the transition to environmentally sustainable healthcare systems. 


Dr Aarti Bansal, CSH Associate,  Founder of the Green Practice Network, Co-Chair of the RCGP Climate Emergency Advisory Group 

Dr Tamsin Ellis, CSH Associate, North East London RCGP faculty lead for climate and health and sustainability scholar, Chair for Greener Practice Network

CSH resources for action:

  1. Join the free webinar series hosted by the CSH Sustainable Healthcare Education network, 'Beyond COP: Conversations to Transform Healthcare'.  The series features a broad collective of experts and students, who come together in conversation to examine the relationship between climate injustice and healthcare.
  2. CSH offers mass online training and facilitating sessions to help healthcare education across the board including SusQI training
  3. Through our education programme, we have developed learning outcomes and curricula for undergraduate and postgraduate education in medicine, nursing, midwifery, and the allied health professions.
  4. We work with student-led groups such as the Planetary Health Report Card and Students for Global Health to support their young person-led climate initiatives