On March 16, we took 30+ health leaders to Parliament House to share our common concern about the health emergency of climate change, and the need for urgent action.
Our delegation — representing 15 organisations of our 55-member alliance, two former chief health officers, leading researchers, along with doctors, nurses, public health physicians, social workers, and health policy experts — met with 33 federal decision-makers to deliver a unanimous message: It’s time for a national strategy on climate, health and well-being.
The health of people in Australia is already being severely and negatively impacted by bushfires and smoke, floods, heatwaves, drought and food insecurity — and impacts are set to worsen. So, our alliance of health professionals discussed with parliamentarians the need for Australia to have a national strategy to manage the health impacts of climate change, based on our framework for a national strategy, which makes a raft of policy recommendations including tougher emissions reduction targets. Australia's federal and state governments need to listen to the advice of leading health voices, as they did with COVID-19, and swiftly act on the health emergency of climate change.
Fiona Armstrong, our Executive Director emphasised that health leaders don't use the word emergency lightly. "Across the country, doctors, nurses and health practitioners are already treating the health impacts caused by worsening climate change," she said.
Our coalition of health voices garnered plenty of attention, with media coverage by RN Breakfast, AAP, The Guardian and more. Seeing a Senate Motion passed was the highlight, stating that the government should develop a national strategy on climate, health and well-being.
CAHA member Dr Kate Charlesworth said: "Stronger climate action is a win-win for health and the environment. It would mean cleaner air, healthier diets, greener and cooler cities and more connected communities. Protecting health is our job and it's time to get on with it."
At this moment of post-COVID recovery – and with an upcoming federal election – we must seize our opportunity to create a healthy, regenerative and just future for all Australians. Over the next few months, we will be activating health professionals and health groups to make it clear in the media and to our representatives: Climate change is the biggest health threat of the century, and we need a national strategy on climate, health and well-being right now.