As organisations representing health, medical and allied health professionals, researchers, academics, hospitals, health services, and unions, we congratulate the Albanese government for its swift action to begin to address the climate crisis in the first 100 days of government.
We welcome the commitment by the Commonwealth Government and the federal Health Minister to develop and implement a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing.
All state and territory governments support a more nationally coordinated approach to climate change and health. A National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing can ensure Australia’s climate policies are also good public health policies. The government has an opportunity to use this strategy to deliver comprehensive, integrated and health-promoting climate action across a wide range of sectors.
The strategy can ensure that good public health policy is also good climate policy, embedding climate considerations in all health policy decisions. A National Strategy will build resilience and preparedness to deal with the growing impacts of climate change on health and the health system, while providing a nationally coordinated approach to decarbonising healthcare.
Crucially, a National Strategy can help strengthen Indigenous leadership in our response to climate change, by situating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wisdom and knowledge as central to all climate and health actions.
The sector is ready to engage with the Commonwealth Government and the federal Health Minister to turn this commitment into action.
We urge the government to take the following steps as an immediate priority towards the development of the National Strategy:
- Establish a Ministerial Forum of state, territory and Commonwealth ministers, to ensure coordination across Health, Climate, and other relevant portfolios;
- Undertake a national health vulnerability and capacity assessment to identify and monitor those populations and areas most susceptible to climate-health impacts. Improve coordination and investment in national disaster preparedness;
- Invest in an evaluation of the health and economic impacts of climate change, and the health and economic benefits of climate policies;
- Conduct a scoping exercise to map existing climate and health initiatives across Ministries and jurisdictions, identify synergies, and develop further policy options and investments;
- Establish a Sustainable Healthcare Unit in the Commonwealth Department of Health to guide the health sector towards environmentally sustainable and low carbon operations and support state and territory health jurisdictions to decarbonise.
Australia has an opportunity to show climate change leadership within our Indo-Pacific region, and we have a responsibility to accelerate our action. The health sector is ready to support the transformations that are needed. This action will further strengthen the relationship between Australia and Indo-Pacific nations, and will also support Australia’s bid to host a United Nations climate conference.
Climate change is a key concern for the health sector. We support the commitment from the Commonwealth Government to take action. We urge the government to both move forward with its work on the National Strategy, and to work closely with the sector to realise its further development and implementation.