Health groups respond to net zero announcement, call for more ambitious action

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Health groups have responded to the Prime Minister’s net zero by 2050 announcement by calling for more ambitious climate action, including a stronger 2030 target.

The World Federation of Public Health Associations, Public Health Association of Australia, Consumers Health Forum of Australia, and Women's and Children's Healthcare Australasia are among 52 health and medical groups that have released an open letter sent to the Prime Minister and Health Minister calling for climate action to protect Australians’ health, as they launch a new health and climate change policy framework to guide governments.

“We want to see health explicitly included in Australia’s commitments under the Paris Agreement,” said Fiona Armstrong, Executive Director of the Climate and Health Alliance.

The health organisations are calling for the government to legislate a 75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030 to reach net zero by 2035, in line with the recommendations of climate scientists. 

The call from health groups comes after last week’s MJA-Lancet Countdown report, which issues a “serious health warning” for Australians from heat, bushfires, air pollution and more, and emphasises the disproportionate health burden borne by Indigenous Australians.

“Australia’s action to address the health impacts of climate change has been described as ‘catastrophic for human health’,'' Ms Armstrong said. “It is wrong and unnecessary to endanger Australian lives in this way.”

The health effects of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are felt beyond its borders, says Dr Liz Hanna, Environmental Health Chair of the World Federation of Public Health Associations. “As the world’s third largest exporter of fossil fuels, Australia is literally digging up the stuff that harms human health across the world.”

“The Australian Government must implement a national climate-health strategy to protect the health of Australians — and all global citizens — from the worsening impacts of climate change,” Dr Hanna said.

The new climate and health policy framework, Healthy, Regenerative and Just, lays out a roadmap that can be progressed into a formalised strategy and implemented by the federal government in cooperation with states and territories to reduce emissions, tackle inequality and improve health through no-regrets policies and initiatives.

“The health and medical community in Australia are calling for action in the strongest possible terms: climate change is a health emergency,” Ms Armstrong said.


Media contact: Remy Shergill, 0423 075 895, [email protected]
See a range of quotes and the full list of signatories below.

Resources:

 

Comments: 

Fiona Armstrong, Executive Director of the Climate and Health Alliance:

“Climate change is a health emergency. The health and medical community in Australia are calling for action in the strongest possible terms. We want to see health explicitly included in Australia’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.

“Australia’s action to address the health impacts of climate change has been described as ‘catastrophic for human health’. Many communities now face one climate disaster after another. In the aftermath they don't get the time or support to recover. It is wrong and unnecessary to endanger Australian lives in this way.”

 

Dr Liz Hanna, World Federation of Public Health Associations:

“Man-made climate change is harming people's health right now, here and abroad. In Australia, the health effects of climate change are diverse, from extreme heat, to bushfires and its smoke, to the mental health impacts, and so on.”

“As the world’s third largest exporter of fossil fuels, Australia is literally digging up the stuff that harms human health across the world. The Australian Government must implement a national climate-health strategy to protect the health of Australians — and all global citizens — from the worsening impacts of climate change.”

 

Dr Barb Vernon, CEO of the Women's and Children's Healthcare Australasia:

The health sector itself contributes an estimated 7% of Australia’s annual carbon emissions.  That’s why women’s & children’s hospitals are taking concrete steps to reduce their own emissions significantly by 2030.

“However, there is an urgent need for national leadership across the economy and society to make a meaningful difference. Unless we take effective collective action now, the health and wellbeing of our children will be harmed.”

 

Terry Slevin, CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia:

“The response to the COVID-19 public health crisis has dominated resources and capacity for nearly two years. But throughout, public health professionals still express concern about the health effects of climate change.”

“We urgently need the Australian Government to step up actions and commitments to cut our harmful emissions, and help communities most at risk from global heating.”

“It’s imperative that the Australian Government show the same determination to address the harms of climate change as it has to addressing the harms of COVID-19.”

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