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Call for fossil fuel ‘health warnings’ on UK petrol pumps and flight tickets

By Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent

Tobacco-style health warnings should be displayed on petrol pumps and flight tickets to warn people of the impacts of burning fossil fuels, it has been urged.

Experts writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) have called for warnings telling people that burning fossil fuels worsens the climate emergency, which will have major impacts on health.

The warning labels should be displayed at points of purchase of fossil energy or services dependent on large amounts of fossil fuel, such as petrol stations, on energy bills, and on airline tickets, they argue.

It would be a low-cost way to encourage people to change their behaviour as part of efforts to cut fossil fuel use and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions which are fuelling rising global temperatures.

The group of experts led by Dr Mike Gill, a former regional director of public health point to the health warnings that cigarettes and tobacco products have to carry, which have helped make smoking less socially acceptable.

They warn that like smoking, fossil fuel use harms others through air pollution that accounts for about 3.5 million premature deaths per year and climate change which threatens the health of current and future generations.

“Warning labels connect the abstract threat of the climate emergency with the use of fossil fuels in the here and now,” they suggest.

There could also be increased restrictions on advertising by fossil fuel companies, particularly to prevent misleading claims about investments in renewables when this is only a small part of their portfolio, they say.

The experts warn that while fossil fuels are already subject to action by many governments, more action is needed to keep global temperature rises to well below 2C and meet the commitments of the Paris climate deal.

The UK, which has a legal target to cut emissions to net zero by 2050, is hoping to spur greater climate ambition by countries in the run up to key “Cop26” UN climate talks due to take place in Glasgow in November.

“There is an opportunity for national and local governments to implement labelling of fossil fuels in the run-up to Cop26 in Glasgow and in particular for the UK Government, as the host of the Cop, to show leadership, as part of a package of measures to accelerate progress on getting to ‘net zero’ emissions.

“When the Covid -19 pandemic eventually wanes labelling could play an important role in helping to reduce the risk of a rapid rebound in greenhouse gas emissions as the economy expands,” the experts write.

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