We need clean, healthy, safe, and sustainable energy systems
Current energy systems in Australia are posing serious risks to health and contribute to emissions growth and climate change. The burning of coal for electricity generation and other fossil fuels for transport poses serious direct risks to human health. In contrast, renewable energy technologies that harvest natural resources such as wind and solar power provide clean, healthy, safe alternatives to fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas.
Shifting to clean renewable energy systems is better for health, and can save billions of dollars annually in avoided ill health and productivity gains.
Ill health and deaths associated with fossil fuel use is costing the community billions of dollars annually from respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous system diseases caused by exposure to the extraction, transportation and combustion of coal, oil and gas. Air pollutants account for a huge proportion of the health costs, contributing to: respiratory diseases such as asthma and lung cancer; cardiovascular diseases which lead to heart attacks; while mercury contributes to developmental delay and permanently reduced intellectual capacity in exposed children.
Despite these abundant energy resources, Australia has failed to capitalise on them by investing in technologies to harvest the clean, renewable, (and free) energy provided by sun and the wind and the waves.The Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Plan developed by the Melbourne Energy Institute (MEI) and research consultancy Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) in 2010 demonstrates that not only does Australia have sufficient non-fossil renewable energy resources to power its entire stationary energy sector, but shows the transition to 100% renewable energy is affordable and can be accomplished in a short time frame. The carbon liability and health consequences associated with Australia's energy supply systems mean that a rapid transition away from fossil fuels is necessary to protect health and reduce the economic impost of health and social damages. The Climate and Health Alliance asserts that there is sufficient grounds of the basis of protecting human health to ban the further development of coal-fired power generation and for governments to introduce policies that recognise the externalised costs of power generation and provide incentives to encourage technologies that do not cause harm. In addition to a price on carbon that reflects the health and climate costs of using fossil fuels for energy generation and transport, a suite of comprehensive policies must be developed to ensure Australia's future energy security in light of a substantial and imminent carbon liability and to ensure Australia's emissions reductions trajectory is consistent with Australia's fair share of the global responsibility to reduce emissions.
We need energy systems in Australia that reduce emissions and protect and people's health. Cleaner, safer, and healthier energy options exist. It's time to implement them. Physicians for Social Responsibility, Coal's Assault on Human Health, November 2009.
End fossil fuel subsidiesCAHA has joined dozens of organisations, including OilChangeInternational, calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies. In addition to signing a joint statement, we participated in a Twitter campaign #endfossilfuelsubsidies during the recent Rio+20 Earth Summit calling on Australian and international governments to end fossil fuel subsidies.
The health and wellbeing of people in Australia and around the world is being put at risk by public subsidies to carbon intensive fossil fuels. In contrast, clean, renewable energy provides safer, healthier alternatives, and yet these energy sources, that offer Australia economic, social, environmental and health benefits, are not being subsidised to the same extent.
Australian taxpayers provide almost $12 billion each year to subsidise fossil fuels €“ the same resources that cause untold harm to human health from air pollution and contribute to global changes that affect our weather patterns.
For further information see CAHA's media release: 'Fossil fuel subsidies are harming our health' on the topic here and a Joint Statement from non-government organisations from around the world.