Western Australian residents are already experiencing the damaging consequences of climate change, and should be prioritising the issue at the election this weekend, according to a timely election briefing on climate change, health and wellbeing.
Reporting below on the election briefing are Dr Richard Yin, a GP in Perth and National Secretary of Doctors for the Environment Australia, Dr Brett Montgomery, a GP and representative of Doctors Reform Society in WA, Jaime Yallup Farrant, Convenor of Climate Justice Union, Louise Giolitto, CEO of WA Council of Social Service, and Fiona Armstrong, Executive Director of Climate and Health Alliance.
(Read Croakey’s previous coverage of the WA election and health here.)
Richard Yin, Brett Montgomery, Fiona Armstrong, Jaime Yallup Farrant, and Louise Giolitto write:
As Western Australia heads into an election this weekend, an issue the leaders of the World Health Organization and the United Nations are calling a public health emergency and an existential threat has unfortunately played a conspicuously minor role. We are not talking about COVID-19, which has of late played a major role in state politics. We are talking about climate change.
It is now three years since WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “We cannot delay action on climate change. We cannot sleepwalk through this health emergency any longer.”
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned last month the world has been “waging a senseless and suicidal war on nature” and that “climate disruption, biodiversity loss and pollution threaten our viability as a species”.
And Sir David Attenborough told the UN Security Council meeting last month the world “risks collapse of everything” without strong climate action.
Deeply concerned health and medical groups are calling on the West Australian Government – and all candidates standing in the 13 March Election – to immediately implement actions to tackle this grave threat.
There are many actions the WA Government can take (including commitments already made) to advance climate action in WA. These relatively simple, affordable steps can protect the community from worsening climate extremes, and position the state as a leader in the low carbon transition.
By investing in the Sustainable Health Review in 2018, and the Climate Health Inquiry in 2019-2020, the WA Government has positioned itself well to lead on this issue – IF it acts on the advice from both initiatives.
Health and medical and climate justice groups have produced a briefing to provide advice on the priorities for the sector ahead of this week’s election.
The Western Australia Election Briefing: Climate Change, Health and Wellbeing – Act Now is signed by Doctors for the Environment, the Climate Justice Union, the Western Australian Council for Social Service, the Doctors Reform Society and the Climate and Health Alliance.
The Briefing calls for the immediate implementation of actions already committed to by the government in response to the 2018 Sustainable Health Review and 2020 Climate and Health Inquiry.
- Establishment of a Sustainable Development Unit in the Department of Health to guide emissions reductions in healthcare (estimated at between 4-7% of the state’s emissions)
- Develop a Climate and Health Adaptation and Mitigation Plan for WA
- Report on WA’s Health System Environmental Footprint
- Invest in coordinated action in policy, procurement, training and research to support decarbonisation in healthcare.
These actions themselves are still not enough, however, and health and medical groups are calling for the government and political parties to go further with their climate commitments.
- Setting a target of 80 percent emissions reduction from healthcare by 2030, and net-zero by 2040
- No new fossil fuel developments
- 100 percentrenewable energy for WA by 2030
As above, WA has shown itself to be a leader in tackling the health effects of climate change in conducting the Climate Health Inquiry.
There is enormous appetite in the health and social services sector for the state to do much more on climate change. Many WA hospitals and health services have voluntarily joined the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals network.
But health and medical professionals, and health services, expect more in terms of policy action to ensure the health system, workforce, and patients are not put further at risk.
All governments need to put robust measures in place to mitigate and adapt to climate impacts, protecting the most vulnerable and increasing the community’s preparedness. WA must do its fair share of this work.
There is a sense of rising alarm that if we collectively fail to mitigate climate change, WA health professionals and the health system may be unable to cope with the ensuing health crisis.
We must, and we can, take action by reducing emissions immediately.
Aiming for net zero by 2050 is too little, too late. We are calling on the government and the opposition to commit to earlier targets, and reduce emissions in WA to net zero by 2040 at the latest.
Read the briefing, Western Australia Election Briefing: Climate Change, Health and Wellbeing – Act Now.
Richard Yin is a GP in Perth and National Secretary of Doctors for the Environment Australia, Brett Montgomery is a GP and representative of Doctors Reform Society in WA, Jaime Yallup Farrant is Convenor of Climate Justice Union, Louise Giolitto is CEO of WA Council of Social Service, and Fiona Armstrong is the Executive Director of Climate and Health Alliance.
Read Croakey’s previous coverage of the WA election and health here.