Leading health groups are calling on the federal government for significant investments in the next federal budget to tackle the health impacts of climate disasters.
With NSW and Queensland reeling from unprecedented flooding, experts say the health sector is unprepared for extreme weather and climate impacts.
The Climate and Health Alliance, comprising 89 Australian health organisations, is calling for the government to tap into the Emergency Response Fund (ERF) to pay for emergency response, disaster recovery and preparedness.
Climate and Health Alliance Executive Director, Ms Fiona Armstrong said, "The ERF has not been used thus far, despite generating $751 million in interest in 2021 alone. An annual investment of $200 million in disaster preparedness and recovery would help secure the long-term resilience of Australian communities, and save money in the medium to long-term."
The Alliance is also calling for:
- The establishment of a national climate change and health committee, with representation from Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers
- An initial $2 million to develop a national strategy on climate and health, as called for by 65+ health organisations
- $3 million per annum to build the capacity of the health workforce to recognise, and respond to climate related health threats.
- $10 million to establish a national unit dedicated to healthcare sustainability and climate resilience with a goal of net zero emissions in healthcare by 2035.
"COVID-19 has illustrated the risks to our society when the health system is overwhelmed. Climate-related disasters and the pandemic are placing enormous pressure on our health system and workforce," said Ms Armstrong.
"This budget must invest in health-focused climate action and disaster prevention as an urgent priority."
Planetary health expert and Monash Sustainable Development Institute Director, Dr Tony Capon said, "Our national government is yet to act on climate change and health. Australia urgently needs a climate-resilient health system, and a national plan to protect the health of communities from disasters.
"Australia is now over a decade behind the UK. The National Health Service in the UK is striving to be the world's first net zero health system. The UK government has also committed to far more substantial emissions cuts across all industrial sectors," said Dr Capon.
- 2022 Federal Budget Submission by the Climate and Health Alliance
- Framework for a national strategy on climate, health and well-being, endorsed by 65+ health organisations
Interviews available. Media contact: Remy Shergill, 0423 075 895, [email protected]