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'Collective action globally is crucial to reducing the impact of climate change'

Rachel Richards, Port Health Support, Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority, on why climate change needs a multi-targeted approach
01 September 2021

Ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), which opens on 31 October, we asked a new generation of EHPs how they are tackling climate change and what they hope the conference will achieve. Here, Rachel Richards shares her views.

The mission of the Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority is to protect human and animal health. My main responsibility is to conduct document and identity inspections on food imports. I have also helped port health officers sample foodstuffs, which are subject to import controls and help conduct vessel inspections. I really enjoy my role, as I feel I am making a difference to the health of the UK population.

East Suffolk Council is committed to tackling climate change both inside and outside the organisation. At the port health authority, we use electric vehicles, automatic lighting and recycling bins. In my day-to-day living, I have reduced my carbon footprint by decreasing my clothing purchases and my intake of animal products, using alternative transport (walking and cycling) and switching to a renewable energy supplier.

The increase in adverse weather incidences affects so many different industries, especially the agriculture sector, which may in turn affect the safety and quality of food we consume.

During my EH master’s degree we participated in a simulation, run by Public Health England, of the 2015 Paris conference. We learned that collective action globally is crucial to reducing the impact of climate change. EHPs are perfectly poised to help tackle climate change as they can influence policy across a wide range of areas including housing, pollution and public health.

Becoming carbon neutral needs commitment from every profession, but COP26 is particularly important for EH professionals as everything from waste to town planning and housing involves the implementation of carbon-neutral policies, which also involves control and enforcement by EHPs.

The very nature of the EH profession is to be an influencer and solve problems. By continuing to inform the public and promoting alternative solutions, EHPs will be able to contribute to the UK goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

This interview is an excerpt from an article in September’s EHN magazine on ‘Saving the world: how environmental health is tackling climate change’, written by Sarah Kovandzich

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