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With the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in full swing, SHP looks at the importance of the event on a global scale, while also focusing on how the effects of climate change are seeping into the workplace, exploring what businesses can do to safeguard staff and contribute to the global effort.
Exposure to polluted air has been linked to the development of both acute and chronic health conditions such as, heart disease, respiratory diseases, and allergic disorders.
Extreme conditions such as floods, landslides storms, lightening and drought are all associated with occupational deaths, injuries, diseases, and mental stress.
Climate conditions such as temperature and rainfall affect the prevalence and distribution of vectors, pathogens, hosts, and allergens. Associated health impacts include asthma and allergies triggered by pollen; mould-related asthma; skin and lung irritation from poisonous plants. The most vulnerable occupational groups include outdoor workers, emergency responders, construction workers, and health care workers.
High temperatures increase the need for climate-controlled buildings. Building-related illnesses sometimes related to indoor air quality, may occur, especially in buildings with air conditioning, water damage, or energy-efficient ‘tight’ buildings with microbial-contaminated humidifiers or air handlers that use biocides.
In a report published by the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, Professor Lora Fleming says: “Adaptation will have a central role in reducing climate impacts and hence health effects. But the co-benefits for our health in tackling climate change are potentially a virtuous circle.”
Though climate change is ultimately a long-term, global issue, there are key strategies individuals, communities and employers can implement today to reduce global warming and safeguard the physical health of, not only themselves, but the individuals they encounter daily.
Sustainability authority Bureau Veritas is urging UK businesses to ‘make changes happen’ as it supports the commitments and ambitions coming out of the UN Climate Change Conference.
Julie-Anna Smith, South & West Europe Sustainability Services Leader at Bureau Veritas, said: “Irrespective of how quickly some of these pledges (made at COP26) become a legal requirement, or how much funding is allocated, UK businesses all have a role to play in making change.
“What is clear in all the commitments made and discussed to date is that transparency and accountability is key – there are processes, procedures and action that needs to happen now to ensure businesses are ahead of the game when it comes to potential new regulations coming down the line.”
The fourth day of COP26 (Wednesday 3 November 2021) saw global leaders gather to discuss mobilising public and private finance flows at scale for mitigation and adaption. Key commitments to have come out of day three of COP26 include confirmation that the Government is drawing up plans for a ‘verification scheme’ for large businesses to publish its net zero transition plans, which will safeguard against greenwashing.
This means that most of the UK’s largest firms and financial institutions will be required to show how they intend to hit climate change targets, in-line with the UK’s net zero ambitions.
The aim of these plans is to increase transparency and accountability within UK businesses that the investments they select consider the planet and societal impact. It paves the way to accelerate responsible change and standardise the disclosure, reporting and assurance of sustainability metrics.
In line with recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TFCD) the new requirements will apply to financial institutions along with private companies that employ more than 500 people and with more than £500 million in turnover.
The mandatory disclosures are designed to increase the quantity and quality of climate-related reporting among UK businesses and to encourage more companies to assess the risks and opportunities posed by climate change, including within their supply chains.
SMEs make up 99% of UK businesses and business & industry accounts for a quarter of UK emissions so the efforts of smaller companies are essential but smaller businesses can lack the resources and knowledge needed to make a difference.
Once businesses have taken the pledge, the SME Climate Hub provides support in the form of tools to help organisation understand their emissions, how to tackle them, and how to share what they’re doing with their customers and community.
Suggestions for how construction SMEs can reduce emissions include:
On the final day of the summit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a statement concluding the conference.
“We came to COP with a call for real action on coal, cars, cash and trees and that’s exactly what we’ve got,” he says.
“Before Paris, the world was on course for a devastating four degrees of warming this century. After Paris, we were heading for three degrees. At Glasgow we’ve turned that dial down to around two degrees.”
Boris continues: “That’s still far too high. But for all our disagreements the world is undeniably heading in the right direction.”
He concludes: “There’s still a long journey ahead of us and very little time to complete it. But COP26 has shown us that we can do this. We can end our reliance on coal and fossil fuels. We can put the brakes on runaway climate change. And we can preserve our unique planet for generations to come.”
Watch SHP’s Connect 2021 webinar: ‘Benefits of clean air in indoor working environments’, below:
Coronavirus advice for employers
This hub page complies all the latest government coronavirus updates. It includes what you can and cannot do in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, workplace advice from multiple sources, including information on welcoming staff back to the workplace and the latest vaccination information.
It also contains a host of useful external links and resources to find further information.
Impact of climate change on workers’ health and safetyWith COP26 in full swing, SHP looks at how the effects of climate change are seeping into the workplace, and what businesses can do to safeguard staff.
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