Health groups call for PM to scale up climate action to avoid escalating health threats

Monday 03 May 2021

HESTA Super Fund, the Australian Medical Association, and 59 other health groups have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, calling on the federal government to scale up emissions reduction strategies to prevent premature deaths and declining health outcomes associated with climate change.

Joining HESTA and the AMA in signing the letter are another 59 organisations, including Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, Doctors for the Environment Australia, and the Climate and Health Alliance. See the full list of signatories below.

The Open Letter calls for three key actions from the federal government:

  1. Prioritise health in Australia’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement;
  2. Commit to decarbonising the healthcare sector by 2040, and establishing an Australian Sustainable Healthcare Unit; and, 
  3. Implement a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing for Australia. 

According to health groups, ambitious action will “unlock substantial benefits from a healthier and more prosperous society.” Air pollution from fossil fuels kills 5,700 Australians annually, and the Australian megafires of 2019-20 killed 33 people directly and sent over 4,000 people to hospital suffering ill effects from the associated smoke pollution.

Letters were also sent to Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor, Health Minister Greg Hunt, Environment Minister Sussan Ley, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, Shadow Health Minister Mark Butler, Shadow Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen, and Shadow Minister for Government Accountability, Kristina Keneally.

See a range of quotes below or for media interviews please contact Remy Shergill on 0423 075 895




Climate and Health Alliance Executive Director Fiona Armstrong:

“The Australian government has an opportunity to reverse Australia’s reputation as a climate laggard by committing to bold ambitious action to reduce emissions, and be part of delivering unprecedented economic and health gains for our nation and the global community.”

“The signatories of this letter include major stakeholders in Australia’s largest economic sector:  health and social services, which employ over 1.5 million people. We are collectively urging the government to heed these calls to avert an escalating health crisis from climate change.”

Media contact: Remy Shergill, 0423 075 895

Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association Chief Executive, Alison Verhoeven:

“Climate change significantly impacts the health of all Australians, the broader health system and the global community. We witnessed firsthand the direct and indirect impact it has during the Black Summer bushfires and again this year during the NSW floods.

“This letter demonstrates the health sector’s commitment to addressing climate change, and it’s time our leaders matched this commitment too.”

Media contact: Alison Verhoeven, 0403 282 501

Doctors for the Environment Australia Sustainable Healthcare Convenor, Eugenie Kayak:

“The widespread health harms from climate change are profound and impact all Australians and health services through increases in injuries and deaths from severe weather, mental health conditions and more.

“Every sector must play its part to curb climate change. Healthcare which is guided by the principle to ‘first, do no harm’, has an added duty to protect health by being part of the solution, rather than part of the problem, and urgently reducing its large carbon footprint in line with the science to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

“The recovery from one health emergency, COVID-19, should be embraced as an opportunity to address our other global health emergency-- the climate crisis.”

Media contact: Carmela Ferraro, 0410 703 074 

NSW Nurses and Midwives Association General Secretary, Brett Holmes:

“We expect governments to make responsible decisions to protect the health of all citizens, as demonstrated during the current COVID-19 epidemic. Our government can no longer bury its head in the sand and refuse to address the climate health emergency.

We are committed to protecting the health and wellbeing of nurses and midwives and this extends to the communities they live and work in. Many communities are still recovering from devastating floods, catastrophic bushfires or prolonged drought, which have significant health implications – from air pollutants through to mental health impacts.

While many of us are cutting emissions or embracing sustainable healthcare, our government is shirking its responsibilities. Too many lives have been lost or put at risk. It’s time our decision makers act to protect people’s health, by acting on climate change.”

Media contact: Gia Hayne, 0488 015 317


Full list of signatories

  1. Australasian College of Emergency Medicine
  2. Climate and Health Alliance (represents 24 organisations in addition to the 57 signatories)
  3. Doctors for the Environment Australia
  4. Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association
  5. The George Institute for Global Health
  6. New South Wales Nurses and Midwives Association
  7. Abilita Services
  8. Angaston Medical Centre
  9. Asthma Australia
  10. Australasian College of Health Service Management
  11. Australasian Epidemiological Association
  12. Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine
  13. Australian Association of Gerontology
  14. Australian Association of Social Workers
  15. Australian Federation of Medical Women
  16. Australian Health Promotion Association
  17. Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association
  18. Australian Institute of Health Innovation
  19. Australian Medical Association
  20. Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Federal)
  21. Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch)
  22. Australian Psychological Society
  23. Australian Society for Medical Research
  24. A Different Approach Community Pty Ltd
  25. Bungendore Medical Centre
  26. Central Australian Rural Practitioners Association Inc
  27. CoHealth
  28. ConNetica Consulting
  29. Consumers Health Forum of Australia
  30. CRANAplus
  31. Dietitians Australia
  32. Doctors for Nutrition
  33. Doctors Reform Society
  34. Friends of CAHA
  35. Gamma Gurus
  36. Health Care Consumers
  37. Health Issues Centre
  38. Health Nature Sustainability Research Group (Deakin University)
  39. HESTA Super Fund
  40. Indigenous Allied Health Australia
  41. Mater Misericordiae Ltd
  42. Medical Scientists Association of Victoria
  43. Mental Health Australia
  44. National Rural Health Alliance
  45. Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria
  46. ProVeritas Group Pty Ltd
  47. Psychology for a Safe Climate
  48. Public Health Association of Australia
  49. Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
  50. Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists
  51. Rural Doctors Association of Australia
  52. Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health
  53. Social Workers for Climate Action
  54. South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute
  55. Star Health
  56. Sydney North Health Network
  57. UNSW School of Population Health
  58. Veterinarians for Climate Action
  59. Wardliparingga Aboriginal Research Unit
  60. Wiser Healthcare
  61. Women’s Health NSW