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WMHPG news, information and resources 31 January 2020

We do not accept responsibility for the availability, reliability or content of these news items and do not necessarily endorse the views expressed within them.

Sustainable development goals

A decade on from Marmot, why are health inequalities widening? https://www.bmj.com/content/365/bmj.l4251 “Experts in public health have warned that inequalities in health have worsened since Michael Marmot’s landmark review was published in 2010, and they call for major policy reforms to tackle growing disparities in life expectancy in the UK. Figures published in March by the Office for National Statistics show that the gap between rich and poor people in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy is increasing in England. Against this troubling backdrop, a 10 year update to the Marmot review will report next February to provide an update on the existence and effectiveness of national and local policies to tackle the social determinants of ill health and to examine what societal trends have affected health inequalities.”

All Party Parliamentary Group on Inclusive Growth – Reconnecting Wealth Creation and Social Justice: https://www.inclusivegrowth.co.uk/ “The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Inclusive Growth brings together reformers across politics, business, trade unions, finance, churches, faith groups and civil society, to forge a new consensus on inclusive growth and identify the practical next steps for reform.”

Problem debt and the social security system: https://www.stepchange.org/policy-and-research/social-security-report.aspx “National polling commissioned by StepChange shows that 54% per cent of those in problem debt receive support through the social security system. 46% of those in the system are never able to make ends meet. The link between poverty and problem debt means that it is crucial that the social security works well for those experiencing financial difficulty and problem debt. But we found that this is not the case and the system is falling short.”

Poorer areas to lose 'hundreds of millions' under proposed changes: https://www.localgov.co.uk/Poorer-areas-to-lose-hundreds-of-millions-under-proposed-changes/49882 “Former ‘red wall’ areas are to lose millions of pounds under the fair funding review, analysis by LGA Labour Group has found. The figures show that over 70% of new Tory MPs will represent communities hit hardest by the changes to the way council funding is allocated. The analysis shows that metropolitan councils will lose almost £300m in adult social care funding under the proposals, with £250m being diverted to Tory shire county councils.”

Community-centred public health: taking a whole system approach: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/community-centred-public-health-taking-a-whole-system-approach “Resources to enable local systems to implement and embed community-centred approaches to health and wellbeing at scale.”

Doomsday Clock is 100 seconds to midnight, the symbolic hour of the apocalypse: https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/01/23/doomsday-clock/ “It is the first time the clock has passed the two-minute mark in more than 70 years of existence, a testament to the need for urgent action, the Bulletin said Thursday, as the nonprofit’s leader warned of influential leaders who “denigrate and discard the most effective methods for addressing complex threats.””


I have collated a range of resources and links for up to date and authoritative information on the novel coronavirus. Many of these pages are updated regularly as the situation changes.

Healthy planning & environment

RTPI – Five Reasons for Climate Justice in Spatial Planning: https://www.rtpi.org.uk/media/3679629/Five%20reasons%20for%20climate%20justice%20in%20spatial%20planning.pdf “Climate change represents an ethical challenge, as much as a scientific or technical one, which means policy makers must consider not only how and why levels of vulnerability to climate change vary but how their policies benefit or disadvantage particular groups. This position paper outlines the RTPI's viewpoint.” This is part of wider work by the RTPI - Better Planning: Climate change: https://www.rtpi.org.uk/knowledge/better-planning/better-planning-climate-change/

Road proximity, air pollution, noise, green space and neurologic disease incidence: a population-based cohort study: https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12940-020-0565-4 “Road proximity was associated with incidence of non-Alzheimer’s dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. This association may be partially mediated by air pollution, whereas noise exposure did not affect associations. There was some evidence of protective effects of greenness.”

Child Friendly Planning in the UK: A Review: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/58aaff9b17bffc6029da965f/t/5de7bdeb78ef74397918653a/1575468539397/National+Planning+Policy+Report.pdf “This report is a careful analysis of how children’s rights are presented within the national planning policies and supporting guidance of each UK nation. It looks specifically at three key human rights as stipulated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). These are the right to participate in decision-making (Article 12); to gather in public space (Article 15); and to play, rest leisure, and access cultural life (Article 31).”

Making London Child-Friendly: designing places and streets for children and young people: https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/ggbd_making_london_child-friendly.pdf “Several factors, from changing attitudes and the role of technology, to increased concerns over safety, can be referenced to explain the decline in levels of independent mobility. The PSI study also found that the most successful initiatives to improve children’s independent mobility focused on transforming the built environment. The independent mobility of children and young people is therefore a key consideration for London's built environment, and an important topic for planners, designers, architects and policymakers.”

Cover one-fifth of UK in trees to save climate and revive wildlife, government told: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tree-plant-net-zero-carbon-woodland-trust-climate-change-crisis-a9293586.html “Tree-planting must be ramped up on a huge scale to help the UK effectively cancel out its carbon emissions and tackle wildlife losses, conservationists have told the government. The Woodland Trust has published an emergency tree plan urging ministers to more than double rates of planting, protect what Britain already has and work to prevent plant diseases.”

Humans risk living in an empty world, warns UN biodiversity chief: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/20/humans-risk-living-in-an-empty-world-warns-un-biodiversity-chief-aoe “Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the acting executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, has implored governments to ensure 2020 is not just another “year of conferences” on the ongoing ecological destruction of the planet, urging countries to take definitive action on deforestation, pollution and the climate crisis.”


Number of social homes in England falls by over 17,000, figures show: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/social-housing-crisis-conservatives-sajid-javid-budget-shelter-latest-a9305786.html “Social housing stock in England dropped by over 17,000 in the last year as waiting lists for homes increased, according to the latest release of government figures. Homelessness charity Shelter described the fall as “absolutely outrageous” and demanded the chancellor, Sajid Javid, earmarked extra funds for social homes in his first Budget in March.”

Private Renting, Technology And Anticipatory Governance: https://housingevidence.ac.uk/private-renting-technology-and-anticipatory-governance/ “The arrival of platform capitalism is already having a discernible impact on the private rented sector. The rise of short-term letting via Airbnb and similar sites are disrupting neighbourhoods in tourist-friendly cities and triggering processes of neighbourhood change. The task of analysing these transformations is well underway – although there is plenty more to be done to understand their full ramifications. We are also seeing a range of regulatory responses from municipalities around the world trying to tame the destabilising influence of the churn induced by short-term letting.”

Exploring exclusion in contemporary housing systems: https://whq.org.uk/the-magazine/issue/117/exploring-exclusion-in-contemporary-housing-systems/ “Recent research commissioned by the National Housing Federation found that 8.4 million people in England are directly affected by the housing crisis, with one in seven of the population living in unaffordable, insecure, overcrowded or unsuitable homes. We explore these issues using the concept of ‘housing exclusion’, which includes social, spatial and financial dimensions.”

Households living in overcrowded private rentals ‘doubles’ in decade: https://www.localgov.co.uk/Households-living-in-overcrowded-private-rentals-doubles-in-decade/49872 “An analysis of the English Housing Survey for 2018/19 by Shelter has revealed that more than 283,000 households who rent privately are living in overcrowded conditions. This figure has doubled in the last 10 years and increased by 22,000 households in the last year alone.”

Seven out of 10 councils overspend on homelessness: https://www.localgov.co.uk/Seven-out-of-10-councils-overspend-on-homelessness/49896 “Seven out of 10 English councils overspent their homelessness budgets in 2018/19 by a combined total of nearly £115m, Local Government Association (LGA) analysis has found.”

Sector presses for further action on cladding: https://www.localgov.co.uk/Sector-presses-for-further-action-on-cladding/49860 “Building safety reforms billed as the ‘biggest change for a generation’ do not go far enough to clamp down on potentially dangerous cladding, councils argued this week.”

Climate change & sustainability

Complex evolving patterns of mass loss from Antarctica’s largest glacier: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-019-0527-z “Pine Island Glacier has contributed more to sea level rise over the past four decades than any other glacier in Antarctica. Model projections indicate that this will continue in the future but at conflicting rates… We demonstrate how the pattern of thinning is evolving in complex ways both in space and time and how rates in the fast-flowing central trunk have decreased by about a factor five since 2007.”

Paris Climate Agreement passes the cost-benefit test: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-13961-1 “We thus provide an inter-temporally optimizing cost-benefit analysis of this century’s climate problem. We account for uncertainties regarding the damage curve, climate sensitivity, socioeconomic future, and mitigation costs. The resulting optimal temperature is robust as can be understood from the generic temperature-dependence of the mitigation costs and the level of damages inferred from the observed temperature-growth relationship. Our results show that the politically motivated Paris Climate Agreement also represents the economically favourable pathway, if carried out properly.”

Environmental degradation driving gender-based violence – IUCN study: https://www.iucn.org/news/gender/202001/environmental-degradation-driving-gender-based-violence-iucn-study “The degradation of nature can lead to gender-based violence including sexual assault, domestic violence and forced prostitution, according to a new IUCN study published today. Competition over increasingly scarce and degraded resources can exacerbate these forms of violence, the review study finds.”

Tropical forests losing ability to absorb CO2, study says: https://www.carbonbrief.org/tropical-forests-losing-ability-to-absorb-co2-study-says “The new analysis uses a combination of remote-sensing data and modelling to create a detailed picture of carbon loss and gain across all of Earth’s biomes from 1992 to 2015. It shows a diverging picture in the world’s two most important ecosystems for storing carbon on land: tropical rainforests and “boreal” forests, which are found in the cold climate of the high latitudes.”

Why we should be wary of blaming ‘overpopulation’ for the climate crisis: https://theconversation.com/why-we-should-be-wary-of-blaming-overpopulation-for-the-climate-crisis-130709 “Famed primatologist Dr Jane Goodall remarked at the event that human population growth is responsible, and that most environmental problems wouldn’t exist if our numbers were at the levels they were 500 years ago. This might seem fairly innocuous, but its an argument that has grim implications and is based on a misreading of the underlying causes of the current crises. As these escalate, people must be prepared to challenge and reject the overpopulation argument.”

“A Trillion Trees” is a great idea—that could become a dangerous climate distraction: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/615102/tree-planting-is-a-great-idea-that-could-become-a-dangerous-climate-distraction/ “Perhaps the biggest risk is that the appeal of natural-sounding solutions can delude us into thinking we’re taking more meaningful action than we really are. It “invites people to view tree planting as a substitute” for the sweeping changes required to prevent greenhouse-gas emissions from reaching the atmosphere in the first place, says Jane Flegal, a member of the adjunct faculty at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society.”

Wood Construction could turn urban skylines into carbon sinks: http://www.anthropocenemagazine.org/2020/01/wood-construction-turn-urban-skylines-carbon-sinks/ “The researchers say that constructing new buildings out of wood and other bio-based materials like bamboo and hemp could actually turn the urban skyline into a carbon sink. In the most optimistic scenario, buildings could store a total of 20 gigatons of carbon over the next three decades.”

With the En-ROADS climate simulator, you can build your own solutions to global warming: https://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/01/en-roads-climate-solutions-simulator/ “Killer hurricanes, devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, and sunny-day flooding in more and more coastal areas around the world have birthed a fatalistic view cleverly dubbed by Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council as “de-nihilism“. One manifestation: An increasing number of people appear to have grown doubtful about the possibility of staving-off climate disaster. However, a new interactive tool from a climate think tank and MIT shows that humanity could still meet the goals of the Paris accord and limit global warming.”

US Climate Resilience Toolkit: https://toolkit.climate.gov/#expertise

For a greener NHS: https://www.england.nhs.uk/greenernhs/ “Climate change poses a major threat to our health as well as our planet. The environment is changing, that change is accelerating, and this has direct and immediate consequences for our patients, the public and the NHS. This is why the NHS has launched the ‘For a greener NHS’ programme, working with our staff, hospitals and our partners. We want to build on the great work being done by trusts across the country, sharing ideas on how to reduce the impact on public health and the environment, save money and – eventually – go net carbon zero.”

Study: Climate change threatens world's wine supply: https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/480190-study-climate-change-threatens-worlds-wine-supply “More than half of the areas around the world suitable for growing grapes used for wine could become unsuitable for the purpose in 80 years due to climate change, according to a new study. A study published Monday in the National Academy of Sciences' online journal said that 56 percent of wine-growing regions could be unsuitable by 2100 should the Earth's climate warm 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit in that time.”

Revealed: UK government financing millions of tonnes of emissions overseas: https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2020/01/23/uk-boris-johnson-financing-coal-fossil-fuels-carbon-emissions/ “A little-known UK government agency is helping to finance projects overseas that will emit 69m tonnes of greenhouse gases per year, Unearthed can reveal… The projects are backed by UK Export Finance (UKEF), which offers loans and financial guarantees to UK companies involved in major projects around the world. It has long declined to rule out investments in fossil fuels.”

David Attenborough says fixed-term parliaments could mean short-sighted climate action: https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/david-attenborough-climate-change-citizens-assembly-fixed-term-parliaments-a9302566.html “Sir David said: “If you have a parliament that is of a fixed length of five years, it’s very difficult to persuade politicians that they should give money and time and attention and worry about an issue which is not going to come to a climax – and people won’t know if it is successful or not successful – for 10 years hence, 15 years hence.””

Ministers doing little towards 2050 emissions target, say top scientists: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/24/ministers-doing-little-to-achieve-2050-emissions-target-say-top-scientists-heathrow-expansion “Expanding Heathrow airport is unlikely to be compatible with the UK’s target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, leading scientists have said, adding that government policies are lacking in many other key areas from home insulation and transport to carbon capturing.”

Portugal reaches 100% renewables, ends fossil fuel subsidies: https://reneweconomy.com.au/portugal-reaches-100-renewables-ends-fossil-fuel-subsidies-32820/ “Portugal’s renewable energy sources generated enough power to exceed total grid demand across the month of March, a new report has found, setting a standard that is expected to become the norm for the European nation. According to Portuguese grid operator, REN, renewable energy output over the month reached 4,812GWh, surpassing the nation’s total electricity needs for March, which only topped 4,647GWh.”

Sainsbury's pledges £1bn to cut emissions to zero by 2040: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51263991 “The supermarket chain, which is the second largest in the UK, has said it will spend £1bn to reach the target. It pledged to reduce emissions from areas like refrigeration and transport. Critics said the pledge did not extend to the supermarket's supply network, which accounts for most of its emissions. However, Sainsbury's said it would be contacting its suppliers.”

Active travel & transport

Manchester cycle network plan could be national blueprint, says Burnham: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jan/28/manchester-cycle-network-plan-could-be-national-blueprint-says-burnham “A joined-up cycling and walking network in Greater Manchester could provide a national blueprint for reducing congestion and air pollution and improving health, a report says. Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, and Chris Boardman, the region’s cycling and walking commissioner, are calling on the government to back plans for an 1,800-mile network of protected routes for pedestrians and cyclists.”

Safer Cycling Advocate Program – Best Practice Guide: https://safercycling.roadsafetyngos.org/best-practice-guide/?mc_cid=1eea78c683&mc_eid=f209095101 “The Safer Cycling Advocate Program (SCAP) seeks to empower civil society organizations by building their capacity to advocate for safer roads and to promote cycling as a transport mode. Road crashes are estimated to kill around 1.3 million people every year and are the leading cause of death among children and young people aged between 5 and 29 years. Although the burden is universal, low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are hit the hardest, with over 90% of all deaths occurring in these countries.”

Glasgow set for 20mph speed limit: https://www.localgov.co.uk/Glasgow-set-for-20mph-speed-limit/49866 “Glasgow City Council has approved plans to introduce a 20mph speed limit across most of its roads. The limit will apply to all residential streets, the city centre, main shopping areas and where there are high levels of walking or cycling.”

National Audit Office - High Speed Two: A progress update: https://www.nao.org.uk/report/high-speed-two-a-progress-update/ “High Speed Two is an ambitious national programme, the construction of which will take decades. The Department, HS2 Ltd and government more widely underestimated the task, leading to optimistic estimates being used to set budgets and delivery dates. In not fully and openly recognising the programme’s risks from the outset, the Department and HS2 Ltd have not adequately managed the risks to value for money. If these risks had been recognised and managed earlier, then the significant activity in a pressured environment over the past year trying to understand and contain cost increases may not have been necessary. There are lessons to be learned from the experience of High Speed Two for other major infrastructure programmes.”

Air quality & pollution

The Inside Story: Health effects of indoor air quality on children and young people: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1gjCmryy1w6zlOSXLusI0mglkmdr4hXHz/view “The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Royal College of Physicians wish to support clinicians by providing the tools to advocate for healthy air for their patients… The focus of this report is about the emerging evidence on indoor air pollution, and sets out recommendations aimed at preventing poor indoor air quality affecting the health and well-being of children.”

200 London schools sign up to clean air audits: https://airqualitynews.com/2020/01/23/200-london-schools-sign-up-to-clean-air-audits/ “The scheme involves clean air audits, carried out by engineering consultancy WSP, which assess the air quality before making recommendations to the school to improve air quality.”

Air-filtering bus to launch across six regions in the UK: https://www.theguardian.com/global/2020/jan/24/air-filtering-bus-to-launch-across-six-regions-in-the-uk “The bus, trialled since 2018 in Southampton, is fitted with fans on the roof that draw in air at a rate of one cubic metre per second and filter out ultra-fine particulate pollution. The single-decker buses are expected to start operating in Brighton, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Plymouth and Crawley from this summer. Another five buses will be introduced in Southampton.”

PFAS Contamination of Drinking Water Far More Prevalent Than Previously Reported: https://www.ewg.org/research/national-pfas-testing/ “New laboratory tests commissioned by EWG have for the first time found the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS in the drinking water of dozens of U.S. cities, including major metropolitan areas. The results confirm that the number of Americans exposed to PFAS from contaminated tap water has been dramatically underestimated by previous studies, both from the Environmental Protection Agency and EWG’s own research.”

Trump Removes Pollution Controls on Streams and Wetlands: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/22/climate/trump-environment-water.html#click=https://t.co/XndKmppJUj “The Trump administration on Thursday finalized a rule to strip away environmental protections for streams, wetlands and groundwater, handing a victory to farmers, fossil fuel producers and real estate developers who said Obama-era rules had shackled them with onerous and unnecessary burdens.”

Food & food security

You want to reduce the carbon footprint of your food? Focus on what you eat, not whether your food is local: https://ourworldindata.org/food-choice-vs-eating-local “‘Eating local’ is a recommendation you hear often – even from prominent sources, including the United Nations. While it might make sense intuitively – after all, transport does lead to emissions – it is one of the most misguided pieces of advice. Eating locally would only have a significant impact if transport was responsible for a large share of food’s final carbon footprint. For most foods, this is not the case. GHG emissions from transportation make up a very small amount of the emissions from food and what you eat is far more important than where your food traveled from.”

UK needs to embrace chlorinated chicken, says Trump spokesperson ahead of Brexit trade talks: https://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/top-stories/donald-trump-and-woody-johnson-on-chlorinated-chicken-1-6484830 “The government has repeatedly vowed not to weaken food standards as part of a trade deal with the US with environment secretary Theresa Villiers saying that the UK would "not be importing chlorinated chicken" just weeks ago. But the row has heated up with US ambassador Woody Johnson writing to The Sunday Times insisting that the modified meat and poultry should be accepted by Britain. "These products should absolutely be included in a US-UK free trade agreement that will create new markets for farmers from both countries and offer more choices to British and American consumers." he said, calling on the UK food standards agency to "recommend" the products.”

Trade wars are huge threats to food security: https://unctad.org/en/pages/newsdetails.aspx?OriginalVersionID=2276 “The international agricultural trading system needs to become less distorted, more inclusive and sustainable, as well as take the specific needs of developing countries into account. The high volume of agricultural subsidies given to producers in developed countries must be reduced. For instance, OECD countries provided US$315 billion worth of support and protection for their agricultural producers in 2017. Instead of improving fair and transparent market access, growing anti-globalization sentiments and moves towards protectionism threaten to undermine the substantial benefits of global trade, particularly for food systems and nutrition. At the same time, anti-globalization and protectionist approaches do nothing to address the problems they claim to respond to.”

Vast Locust Swarm Casts Shadow Over East African Food Security: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-25/vast-locust-swarm-casts-shadow-over-east-african-food-security “The worst desert-locust plague in Kenya in 70 years is threatening to spread further into East Africa, jeopardizing food security. Swarms of the insects are already devouring crops and pasture in Ethiopia and Somalia, and they’re breeding in Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan -- all areas that are prone to drought and food shortages. There’s a high risk they may soon enter northeast Uganda and southeast South Sudan, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization said Friday.”

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