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Urban Environments and Environmental Threats to Health Professor Peter Liss, UEA Inaugural Conference of the Institute for Sustainability, Health & Environment.

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Presentation on theme: "Urban Environments and Environmental Threats to Health Professor Peter Liss, UEA Inaugural Conference of the Institute for Sustainability, Health & Environment."— Presentation transcript:

1 Urban Environments and Environmental Threats to Health Professor Peter Liss, UEA Inaugural Conference of the Institute for Sustainability, Health & Environment – ‘Anticipating Tomorrow for Change Today’

2 Overview 1.About the RCEP 2.RCEP report on The Urban Environment – positive and negative scenarios for the relationship between health and environmental sustainability to Artificial Light in the Environment 4. Novel materials in the environment 5.Key drivers of change 6.Conclusions and role for UWE in moving forward

3 About the Royal Commission The Commission was established by Royal Warrant in 1970; It is independent of Government; It is a ‘Committee of Experts’ not an ‘Expert Committee’ Our Terms of Reference: “To advise Government and Parliament on matters, both national and international, concerning pollution of the environment, the adequacy of research in this field, and future possibilities of danger to the environment.”

4 13 Members of the Royal Commission: Sir John Lawton, Chairman and formerly Chief Exec., NERC Professor Nicholas Cumpsty, Imperial College Professor Mike Depledge, University of Plymouth Dr Ian Graham-Bryce, formerly University of Dundee Professor Jeffrey Jowell, UCL Professor Maria Lee, UCL Professor Peter Liss, UEA Professor Peter Matthews, NI authority for utilities regulation Professor Judith Petts, University of Birmingham Professor Steve Rayner, University of Oxford Professor Michael Roberts, former Chief Exec., CSL Professor Joanne Scott, UCL Professor Lynda Warren, Aberystwyth University

5 The RCEP published a report on The Urban Environment in 2007 It considers the main issues surrounding environmental policy for the urban areas...

6 Why do towns and cities matter? Over 80% of the UK population already live in urban areas – this figure is rising Impact of urban areas on environment is large (CO 2 emissions: see map) But: little over-arching policy Presents us with a great opportunity to influence policy

7 The Urban Environment is complex Affects health and wellbeing of everyone who lives and works there; Problems are concentrated in the most deprived areas: environmental, social and economic factors interact; Relationship between health, wellbeing and place are complex, interacting, and poorly understood. Interacting factors influencing an individual’s health

8 Urban Environments: Threats to health Obesity – 34,000 deaths p.a. Mental illness – association between urban residence and prevalence of psychiatric disorders in the UK Air pollution – 24,000 deaths p.a. Climate – Winter – 25,700 extra deaths p.a.; Summer – at least 2,000 excess deaths p.a.

9 Urban Environments: Benefits to health Mentally stimulates those who live and work there Green space – important for health and wellbeing, provides community benefits (e.g. allotments) Green space also provides ecosystem services: alleviation from flooding, river restoration, biodiversity

10 Artificial light in the environment The RCEP will be publishing a short report on Artificial Light in the Environment in late 2009; The Urban Environment identified light as an important factor in determining local environmental quality; The RCEP has learnt that disruption of ‘natural’ light can have significant effects on plants, vertebrates (including humans) and invertebrates

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12 >1million of the UK’s stock of 8million street lights will need to be replaced in the next few years (already past the end of their design life); Opportunity to ensure that their replacements avoid some of the adverse effects of the current stock (£, C, spillage) Artificial light in the environment - opportunities However, what will be the impact of new light technology on the natural environment?

13 Novel materials in the environment In 2008 the RCEP published a report on Novel Materials in the Environment: The case of nanotechnology The rate of innovation in the field of nanotechnology is outpacing our ability to test the affect these materials have on the natural environment

14 The Commission did not find evidence of actual harm caused by nanomaterials; However, the lack of standardised testing methodologies for nanomaterials in the environment suggests that we would not necessarily know if they were causing harm

15 The Commission therefore recommended the establishment of an ‘early warning system’ for nanomaterials, incorporating a simple checklist They also called for greater Government investment in the training of toxicologists and eco- toxicologists

16 Conclusions and role for UWE in moving forward? Integrated approach for water, transport, energy and waste in urban environments – an environmental contract between national and local Governments Known unknowns: artificial light and novel materials in the environment – pressure on natural systems impacting on sustainability

17 For copies of the Commission’s reports please see For hard copies please contact:


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