Health leaders unite to call for immediate and ambitious national action on climate

Monday 16 August 2021

Leaders representing over 500,000 Australian healthcare professionals and 298 organisations have today released powerful video messages urging the Federal Government to adopt a zero emissions target by 2050 ahead of the critical UN Climate Summit, known as COP26, in November. 

The health leaders have also highlighted the need to decarbonise the healthcare sector, which represents a staggering 7% of national emissions. Doctors for the Environment Australia has recently called for the health sector to reduce its carbon footprint 80% by 2030, which the AMA has endorsed.

The leaders are delivering their messages in the run up to August’s Australian civil society climate summit, the Better Futures Forum (17th -19th) at which climate champions from across society will publicly advocate for Federal climate action that meets Paris Agreement goals to limit warming to below 2 degrees, and preferably to 1.5 degrees

The health effects of climate change are immense and far-ranging. It’s estimated that without immediate and effective climate action, between 2030 and 2050 approximately 250,000 people will lose their lives because of climate change. 

Of all developed countries, Australia is one of the most vulnerable to the effects of a changing climate. The 2020 unprecedented summer of fires along the east coast and the recent floods and storms in Victoria alone should force attention and urgent action.

The health leaders’ messages reflect the strong asks in an April 2021 open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison from the Better Futures Australia Health Sector Roundtable, representing over 60 health and health-related organisations including the AMA, HESTA, the Climate and Health Alliance and Doctors for the Environment Australia.

The time to act is now.

A short compilation of the leaders’ video messages is here.

Dr Eugenie Kayak, spokesperson for Doctors for the Environment Australia, said, “We coped as a nation very well with the threat of COVID and the pandemic. We listened to the science and took action based on the evidence and now it’s really beholden on us as a nation and as the healthcare sector to do the same when it comes to action on climate change. We need to act decisively this decade if we’re going to protect the health and wellbeing of Australians”.

Video message here.

Dr Kim Loo, Australian Medical Association (NSW) Council, said, “We want to lead in this race to have a healthy future. I want the whole community to benefit from this transition so no one is left behind and no one is left out. This is entirely possible in Australia, we just need the imagination and the desire to do this, from all sectors of the community, including our government”. 

Video message here.

Dr Barb Vernon, CEO of Women’s and Children’s Healthcare Australasia, said, “We’ve always been clever in the past, so I think there’s a key opportunity for Australia to play a lead role in climate. The future should be one in which our children and young people feel optimistic that they can have the same quality of life that we’ve had”.

Video message here.

Terry Slevin, CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, said, "If we gather together that enormous industry that is healthcare in Australia, it accounts for a similar emission contribution to that of the state of South Australia - roughly seven per cent of total emissions. So that’s an enormous window of opportunity where the people who are likely to be treating the adverse public health impact of climate change - which has already started - as a system can contribute to the solution.”.

Video message here.

Dr. Rebecca Patrick, President of the Climate and Health Alliance, said, "A better future is one where we recognise and value Indigenous Knowledge Systems, where connection with nature is a health promotion priority and where planetary health thinking guides our approach to climate actions that benefit human health". 

Video message here.

Brett Holmes, General Secretary, NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association, said "A better future for Australia is that we all act in every possible way we can to reduce our impact upon the environment, reduce our carbon needs, and make sure that in doing so we have a just transition for those workers who depend upon that carbon-based footprint”.

Video message here.

Dr Clare Skinner, President-Elect of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, said, “I think we have this impetus here for change. This is the moment, we need to grab it, we can work together, we can be creative. This isn’t about losing jobs, this is actually about creating a new world that’s better for all of us”.

Video message here.


Available for interview:

Doctors for the Environment Australia: 

Dr Eugenie Kayak and Dr Kimberly Humphrey.

To arrange an interview, please call Carmela Ferraro on 0410 703 074


Climate and Health Alliance:

Dr Rebecca Patrick

To arrange an interview, please call Remy Shergill on 0423 075 895