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Showcasing action, urgency and opportunity for the health sector on the climate crisis

Fossil fuel subsidies cost Australians $10.3 billion in 2020-21 with one Commonwealth tax break alone ($7.84 billion) exceeding the $7.82 billion spent on the Australian Army, according to research released this week by The Australia Institute.

“Coal, oil and gas companies in Australia give the impression that they are major contributors to the Australian economy, but our research shows that they are major recipients of government funds,” said Australia Institute Research Director Rod Campbell.

The news followed Australia’s timid and tepid performance at US President Joe Biden’s Virtual Leaders Summit on Climate last week, where, as University of Melbourne Professor Jacqueline Peel put it,  Prime Minister Scott Morrison “stuck doggedly to the Abbott-era 2030 emissions pledge, insisting that it’s outcomes not targets that matter”.

The outlook is critical, as the Climate and Health Alliance’s Remy Shergill highlighted during a week of guest tweeting for @WePublicHealth, including during a #ClimateHealth roundtable attended by more than 60 Australian health groups. But there is also much positive work being done and opportunities, particularly in the health sector, to press for change.

The post below captures some of her tweets and discussions.


Remy Shergill, Climate and Health Alliance tweets:

I’m running the @WePublicHealth Twitter account this week to talk all things climate and health! Today, we’ll be focusing on the #ClimateHealthRoundtable, with 60+ health groups meeting to talk about how we can work together for climate action to protect health.

The rest of the week, I’ll be looking at #SustainableHealthcare, the mental health effects of climate change, the spread of infectious disease with climate change, the increasing extreme weather impacts of climate change — and all the wonderful solutions which we already have.

More people are making the link between climate and health in their head. If you need some help with that, this wonderful 3-part podcast series will do the trick. ‘Climate change will kill you, ep1: #heat’ https://7ampodcast.com.au/episodes/climate-change-will-kill-you-part-one-heat

In 2011, flash flooding in Grantham Queesnland had a devastating impact on the town’s residents. Events like this are predicted to become more common, as the planet warms leading to more extreme weather events. ‘Climate change will kill you, ep2: #flood https://7ampodcast.com.au/episodes/climate-change-will-kill-you-part-two-flood

From thunderstorm asthma to increasing prevalence of infectious disease, a warming planet is already making us more sick. How climate change puts us more at risk of disease. ‘Climate change will kill you, ep3: #sicknesshttps://7ampodcast.com.au/episodes/climate-change-will-kill-you-part-three-sickness


#ClimateHealthRoundtable

The #ClimateHealthRoundtable is an event for the health sector to plan a better, healthier future, as part of the @BetterFuturesAU  initiative. We are grateful for the leadership of @healthy_climate @DocsEnvAus @acemonline  for organising this event!

@Leese_rc from @CAN_Australia is introducing us to @BetterFuturesAU Initiative: a platform for all Australians from all sectors to look at a zero emissions future from their sector and demonstrate our collective readiness/social licence for govt/big business to go big and go hard.

Fiona Armstrong, Executive Director of Climate and Health Alliance, is a global leader in climate and health.

“Australia is a laggard … and it’s costing lives,” she said, discussing the National Strategy on Climate Health and Wellbeing, which has extensive support throughout the Australian health sector.

“The health sector can and must lead on #ClimateAction.”

Dr Eugenie Kayak is the convener of @DocsEnvAus: “There is no planet B.” “Health is inextricably linked to healthy, stable, productive environments. @DocsEnvAus have been working towards this for two decades. Shout out to their new podcast, After Hours.

Ramsey Awad from @HNEHealth, biggest health district in NSW: We’re aiming to be carbon and waste neutral by *2030*.

In the next decade, Hunter New England Health will invest in solar power, water sustainability & energy efficient practices to eventually, eliminate the organisation’s carbon footprint. http://hnehealth.nsw.gov.au/Pages/Sustaina

Why? 25% of all human disease / death is attributed to unhealthy environments. Health is a major contributor of carbon emissions – We must address our environmental health. Hunter New England Health want to leave behind a truly healthy legacy, for our generation and many generations to come.

Intergenerational equity requires us to act on climate now. “Our children & young people should feel optimistic they can have the same quality of life that we’ve had. At the moment, that’s not the case.” @BarbVernon7, CEO @WomensHealthAU @ChildHealthAU

@terryslevin, CEO @_phaa_ articulates the enormous opportunity sitting in front of the Aussie health sector: “The people who are treating the adverse impacts of climate change as a system can contribute to the solutions.”

The @BetterFuturesAU Declaration is a statement of support from the private/public sectors in taking ambitious climate action and ensuring we’re on track for a prosperous, climate-resilient zero emissions future, in line with the #ParisAgreement. Will your organisation sign on?

Common themes emerging as groups report back from the breakout rooms: Healthcare decarbonisation. The need for national climate-health strategy. Links between climate change & social determinants of health.

Next steps:

1. Sign the open letter (get in touch)

2. Sign the @BetterFuturesAu declaration

3. Showcase your organisations’ achievements via the BFA Online portal

4. Come to the BFA Forum on Aug 17-19 Thank you to everyone for coming!

Read the full @WePublicHealth thread of the webinar.

Today we’ve heard what 70+ Australian health organisations are doing to tackle climate change at the #ClimateHealthRoundtable But why is it such an important issue for health? Climate change = health emergency. Here’s one explanation.

See this thread on the @LancetCountdown 2020 Report


#SustainableHealthCare

Today we’ll look at the problems, the solutions and some inspiring examples of #SustainableHealthcare in Australia, NZ and abroad.

Imagine a world where health services worked together for a more sustainable, healthy future…This is the vision of Global Green & Healthy Hospitals (@Green_Hospitals) @carolbeenee at @healthy_climate runs the Pacific Branch of GGHH

As of March 2021, there are 105 GGHH members in the Pacific region, representing over 1,822 hospitals and health services. A big thanks to all these health orgs leading for sustainability in the Pacific. Full list here.

Climate mitigation policies worldwide often do not address health impacts. According to new analysis, dozens of countries have NEVER mentioned the health implications of climate change at a @UN General Assembly debate this last decade.

#SustainableHealthcare leaders in Oz are already working in line with the roadmap, like @IPCHealth_au @AmbulanceVic @HNEHealth @UnitingCareQld @ACTHealth. If your organisation aligns with to these goals, you should consider joining our GGHH program.

@HCWHGlobal and @ArupGroup have just released the first ever guide to lead global healthcare to decarbonisation. The Road Map is “a navigational tool for achieving zero emissions with climate resilience and health equity” — and it’s a gamechanger.

What does it mean for us?

Australia’s health sector makes up approximately seven percent of Australia’s total GHGs. Our healthcare/capita GHGs came third out of 68 countries examined. The Australian health sector needs to steeply and rapidly decrease GHGs, reaching net zero around 2042, with immediate and aggressive action.

A sustainable health care case study: Ambulance Victoria initiatives: Immediately reduced seven percent of emissions by switching to clean energy at high-use sites. 100% clean energy 2025.  39% less emissions by 2025, 60% by 2030, net zero by 2045. Each patient = halved CO2 footprint by 2030.


#EarthDay

#EarthDay  matters for our health. Five reasons:

  1. Pollution is not a small, faraway issue: @WHO estimates 12.6 million deaths/year can be attributed to environmental risks. That’s more than one-fifth of deaths, and more than one-quarter of deaths in children under 5.
  2. Air pollution is very damaging. “Air pollution makes children come see me in the ER because they can’t breathe. It makes people who are older who have chronic lung problems go to the ER because they can’t breathe.”
  3. Climate change is a health issue. A non-comprehensive list of climate-related health issues: Heart attacks, severe strokes, kidney problems, poorer mental health, increased risk of violence & suicide, smoke inhalation, infectious diseases etc.
  4. Nature & pandemics are related. COVID-19 is the worst zoonotic virus for humans lately. “Clearing forests evicts bats from their homes. Bats without homes may be more likely to encounter people and spill a virus that could spread around the world.”
  5. There’s hope, and you matter. This is very important. We are not “doomed”, But we need to move with the utmost urgency. Wondering how you can take action? Head to http://caha.org.au/act

To achieve this, we must:

  • Expand conservation programs.
  • Restore & revegetate forests, rivers & wetlands.
  • Protect agri-land from mining, development.
  • Invest in sustainable water & food production, infrastructure.
  • Improve soil quality.
  • Support & promote biodiversity.
  • Underpin decisions with access to traditional lands & respect for native title.
  • Foster nature-based enterprise that deliver health, enviro & economic benefits.
  • Expand Indigenous ranger programs.
  • Support coastal habitat restoration & monitoring.
  • Clean up marine debris.

Our Healthy Regenerative & Just policy agenda provides a framework to get to the future we want. You can endorse the agenda at http://caha.org.au/hrj-agenda

We need health in our NDCs. @TheLancet paper claims that including health would help to achieve the well below 2°C target. “A greater consideration of health in the NDCs and mitigation policies has the potential to yield considerable health benefits.” https://climatetracker.org/climate-mitigation-policies-worldwide-often-do-not-address-health-impacts-study-finds/

“In recognition of #EarthDay, the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness has declared a #ClimateEmergency and released a Call to Action for Environmentally Sustainable Practices in the Eye Health Sector.” Well done @IAPB1.

@WHO has also put together a helpful ‘Health and climate change toolkit’. If you work in health and care about reducing its environmental impact, we highly recommend this tool. You can also join the @Green_Hospitals network — free to join.


Climate change and mental health

We’re going to be sharing a lot of climate change and mental health content today.

Many psychologists say they feel unequipped to handle more and more patients despairing over the state of the planet. A new contingent of mental health professionals aims to fix that.

This is a wonderful read about the intersection of faith, feelings and climate change. Recognising the grief in his community, and his own, about climate change, Rev. Hardin-Nieri created a safe space to talk about these feelings and offer each other support.

It’s hard to imagine how children perceive the climate crisis. For some, they have been exposed to warnings and pleas for action from the time they were born. It’s important we teach children about climate with compassion, hope and self-efficacy.

‘Australia’s cascading environmental crises are all likely effects of climate change. How can psychiatrists and other mental health stakeholders respond?’

What we need is “constructive hope”. We must believe that we have the agency to change the world and curb climate change. This determination and hope could come from understanding our interconnectedness with, and our duties to, nature and ourselves.

“Mothers have long been at the forefront of social change. Consider @MomsDemand @MADDOnline and @WallOfMoms. It’s no surprise that, as we face the “greatest threat modern humans have ever faced,” mothers are mobilising against climate change.”

@EcoAnxiousCa was “created in response to our own experiences with eco-anxiety and feelings of isolation as we navigate this crisis. If we can shrug off silence together, we can support one another in taking meaningful action.”

Thread: So what can mental health professionals do? https://twitter.com/WePublicHealth/status/1385799077552549888


Wrapping up

Health professionals around the world have shown that they support strong action to protect the environment.

They are ready to be champions for the green, healthy and prosperous societies of the future. Read the manifesto: https://cdn.who.int/media/docs/default-source/climate-change/who-manifesto-for-a-healthy-and-green-post-covid-recovery_4d85f26a-73db-46b7-a2a5-9854ca6faa64.pdf?sfvrsn=f32ecfa7_8

Key #ClimateHealth resource: ‘WHO Manifesto for a healthy recovery from COVID-19.’ In the wake of the pandemic,@WHO published 6 actions to deliver a healthy and green recovery from COVID-19.



See previous Croakey articles on health and the climate crisis.

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