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Health and medical leaders urge the Prime Minister to act on climate crisis

Introduction by Croakey: Sixty health and medical organisations – including Indigenous health groups, service providers, the Australasian College of Health Service Management, the HESTA Super Fund and the Australian Society for Medical Research – have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister urging climate action for health.

The letter, published below with a list of signatories, comes as the Morrison Government announces that it will establish a National Recovery and Resilience Agency, to be led by Former Liberal Party President Shane Stone. The agency will combine the former National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency and the National Bushfire Recovery Agency.

The Government will also establish an Australian Climate Service, a collaboration between the Bureau of Meteorology, the CSIRO, ABS and Geoscience Australiam to bring together critical data for informing emergency responses and long-term planning for infrastructure, housing and basic services like power, telecommunications, and water.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said in the media statement that: “We do face more extreme weather events due to changing climate and this is about being prepared, and being able to take steps to make our communities more resilient.”

Meanwhile, we await climate action from the Health Minister, Greg Hunt.


Dear Prime Minister,

We write to you as a coalition of climate concerned health organisations in Australia that wish to see the threat to health from climate change addressed by the Australian Government.

Climate change is described by the World Health Organization as “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.” Yet, climate action could be the greatest public health opportunity to prevent premature deaths, address climate and health inequity, slow down or reverse a decrease in life expectancy, and unlock substantial health and economic co-benefits.

To ensure that the health of all Australians is protected from the threat of climate change, we call on the Australian Government to:

1.    Prioritise health in the context of Australia’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement

A stable climate is a fundamental determinant of health and the aim to limit warming to 1.5°C is a critically important public health goal. The current emissions reductions target set by Australia is not sufficient to keep warming to 2°C. This threatens the health of Australians, and people around the world. Significantly increasing ambition by Australia in its Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement is needed to have a chance of avoiding the further disastrous health, economic, and environmental impacts of climate change. This would best be achieved by the creation of a body that will appropriately prioritise the setting of targets to meet those agreed to under the Paris Agreement.

2.     Commit to the decarbonisation of the healthcare sector by 2040, and to the establishment of an Australian Sustainable Healthcare Unit

The health sector is responsible for 7% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Achieving net-zero healthcare will significantly contribute to emissions reductions in Australia and will lead to economic and health co-benefits. A target of net-zero emissions by 2040 for healthcare in Australia, with an interim emissions reduction target of 80% by 2030, is in line with similar commitments by the National Health Service in the United Kingdom – and is broadly consistent with the goal of limiting global temperature rise to  1.5°C. Establishing an Australian Sustainable Healthcare Unit in the Australian Government Department of Health is necessary to ensure standardised and consistent  measurement of health sector emissions, mapping evidence-based approaches to emissions reductions, and achieving nation-wide health sector outcomes.

3.    Implement a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing for Australia

A key recommendation from the 2020 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change  Policy Brief for Australia is the implementation of a national climate change and health strategy. A Framework for a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing has already been developed as guidance by the health sector and health experts, and is supported by more than 50 health organisations.

By implementing the systematic and ambitious actions on climate change and health  described above, the Australian Government will demonstrate its commitment to the health and wellbeing of Australians, the economy, and the environment. This will deliver a decrease in climate change associated morbidity and mortality and the associated economic costs, and unlock substantial benefits from a healthier and more prosperous society.

Signatories

  1. Australasian College for Emergency Medicine
  2. Climate and Health Alliance (represents 24 organisations in addition to the 57 signatories)
  3. Doctors for the Environment Australia
  4. Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association
  5. The George Institute for Global Health
  6. New South Wales Nurses and Midwives Association
  7. Abilita Services
  8. Angaston Medical Centre
  9. Asthma Australia
  10. Australasian College of Health Service Management
  11. Australasian Epidemiological Association
  12. Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine
  13. Australian Association of Gerontology
  14. Australian Association of Social Workers
  15. Australian Federation of Medical Women
  16. Australian Health Promotion Association
  17. Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association
  18. Australian Institute of Health Innovation
  19. Australian Medical Association
  20. Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Federal)
  21. Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch)
  22. Australian Psychological Society
  23. Australian Society for Medical Research
  24. A Different Approach Community Pty Ltd
  25. Bungendore Medical Centre
  26. Central Australian Rural Practitioners Association Inc
  27. CoHealth
  28. ConNetica Consulting
  29. Consumers Health Forum of Australia
  30. CRANAplus
  31. Dietitians Australia
  32. Doctors for Nutrition
  33. Doctors Reform Society
  34. Friends of CAHA
  35. Gamma Gurus
  36. Health Care Consumers
  37. Health Issues Centre
  38. Health Nature Sustainability Research Group (Deakin University)
  39. HESTA Super Fund
  40. Indigenous Allied Health Australia
  41. Mater Misericordiae Ltd
  42. Medical Scientists Association of Victoria
  43. National Rural Health Alliance
  44. Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria
  45. ProVeritas Group Pty Ltd
  46. Psychology for a Safe Climate
  47. Public Health Association of Australia
  48. Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
  49. Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists
  50. Rural Doctors Association of Australia
  51. Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health
  52. Social Workers for Climate Action
  53. South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute
  54. Star Health
  55. Sydney North Health Network
  56. UNSW School of Population Health
  57. Veterinarians for Climate Action
  58. Wardliparingga Aboriginal Research Unit
  59. Wiser Healthcare
  60. Women’s Health NSW

See previous Croakey articles on the climate crisis and health.

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Oceania EcoHealth Symposium 2013
PHAA conference 2013
2014 conferences
#IPCHIV14
AIDA Conference 2014
Congress Lowitja 2014
CRANAplus conference 2014
Cultural Solutions - Healing Foundation forum 2014
Lowitja Institute Continuous Quality Improvement conference 2014
National Suicide Prevention Conference 2014
Racism and children/youth health symposium 2014
Rural & Remote Health Scientific Symposium 2014
2015 conferences
#CPHCEforum
#CRANAplus15
#HSR15
#NRHC15
#OTCC15
Population Health Congress 2015
2016 conferences
#AHHAsim16
#AHMRC16
#ANROWS2016
#ATSISPEP
#AusCanIndigenousWellness
#cphce2016
#CPHCEforum16
#CRANAplus2016
#IAMRA2016
#LowitjaConf2016
#PreventObesity16
#TowardsRecovery
#VMIAC16
#WearablesCEH
#WICC2016
2017 conferences
#17APCC
#ACEM17
#AIDAconf2017
#BTH20
#CATSINaM17
#ClimateHealthStrategy
#IAHAConf17
#IDS17
#LBQWHC17
#LivingOurWay
#OKtoAskAu
#OTCC2017
#ResearchTranslation17
#TheMHS2017
#VMIACConf17
#WCPH2017
Australian Palliative Care Conference
2018 conferences
#6rrhss
#ACEM18
#AHPA2018
#ATSISPC18
#CPHCE
#MHED18
#NDISMentalHealth
#Nurseforce
#OKToAsk2018
#RANZCOG18
#ResearchIntoPolicy
#VHAawards
#VMIACAwards18