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Climate Change in Sussex – an unequal physical activity challenge

David Gent, CEO at Active Humber

David Gent is the CEO at Active Humber and board member of the Sport Environment and Climate Coalition.

David has held numerous positions across the sports development industry and, whilst at University, looked at the linkages between sport and the environment when it was just an emerging discipline.

Passionate that we must act now, David has worked from local to international level on environment and physical activity matters and is currently supporting the Humber region to become the world’s first net-zero industrial cluster.

David believes that physical activity is not only the miracle cure for health, but for the climate as well. He will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Active Sussex Conference on Tuesday 20 September where he will be delivering a session titled, “Climate Change in Sussex – an unequal physical inactivity challenge”.


Q. Why is it important for the sport and physical activity sector to start to think about climate change?

Climate change will be the dominant issue we face as a Nation and as a species over the next 10 years. Only recently has Sussex seen a heat wave, drought, flooding and sewage pumped into its seas. The sport and physical activity sector needs to act now to mitigate the effects of climate change so that we can continue to benefit from the wonderful community facilities and natural environments that allow us to be physically active.

Climate change is the world’s biggest health crisis and sedentary behaviours are at the heart of that. Climate change is also fundamentally about injustice and inequalities. Those facing the greatest inequalities are the ones most likely to be affected by climate change and the least able to adapt to the changes e.g., poor air quality.

Humanity must massively decrease its carbon emissions by 2030 to avoid the worst effects of climate change. If we consider how hard it has been to improve physical activity rates in those time scales, this is clearly a very big challenge, but one where being active can, and does, have a considerable impact.


Q. What needs to change in our sector to ensure we have a big enough impact on climate change?

Beyond some high-level understanding about extreme weather and major sport events and energy costs of our swimming pools/indoor centres, as a sector, we do not yet fully understand what climate change means for us. The recent extreme weather events show just how the climate is impacting the way we live and, in turn, how we can or cannot exercise.

We must first therefore quickly acknowledge and understand our role and then work out where we need to focus our attention to both adapt to the effects of climate change and mitigate its effects.


Q. What advice would you give individuals and/or organisations looking to do more to support this area?

We must act and act quickly. You don’t need to wait to know all the facts on climate change.

We can firstly look at what we are doing as individuals and as organisations. Are our daily practises and energy use helping to mitigate the effects of climate change e.g., what is our approach to active travel as part of our work as sporting organisations, do we still love our cars for all those short journeys? A great first step would be to both adopt and advocate all journeys of less than 6km to be made by active travel e.g. walking or cycling.

We already know many other well publicised actions we can take (litter picking, walking or cycling instead of driving, using less plastic in our day to day operations) so do something now because whatever we do will be beneficial.


Q. What do you want the delegates to take away from the session?

I want delegates to go away from this session and talk more about this topic and begin to take action. It is time for the sport and physical activity sector to catch up and contribute. We want to keep our wonderful community as it is, so delegates need to go and do something that will make Sussex better.

Hopefully, the session will give a few tips on how to get started and, for those already on the way, showcase what else we might be able to do in Sussex.


For more information about the Active Sussex Conference 2022, click here.

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