QLD health groups call for climate action to protect Queenslanders’ health

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Health groups are calling on Queensland Election Candidates to commit to urgent action on climate change to protect Queenslanders’ health and well-being ahead of this Saturday’s State Election.

The Queensland Election Briefing: Climate Change, Health and Wellbeing: opportunities to boost resilience states that the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need for integrated disaster responses, and that climate forecasts indicate that concurrent and complicated disasters will be increasingly likely over time.

It warns that, as early as this summer, Queensland could find itself having to evacuate citizens from flooded regions post-cyclone, in heatwave conditions, and during a pandemic.

In order to help protect Queenslanders’ health, the briefing calls on the Queensland government and all election candidates to support transitioning to 100% renewables by 2035; expanding solar installation on all public buildings; boosting heatwave readiness by ensuring adequate heat shelters or cooling centres for vulnerable individuals and groups; investing in community mental health programs; expanding reporting systems for climate-related health presentations in emergency departments; and developing a community education campaign on climate health impacts.

The briefing has been signed by 5 health organisations, including Climate and Health Alliance, Public Health Association of Australia Queensland Branch, Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council, Social Workers for Climate Action and Doctors for the Environment Australia.

The briefing applauds the current Queensland government’s “commendable first steps towards building climate resilience in the state’s health and wellbeing system”, including its Human Health and Wellbeing Climate Change Adaptation Plan (H-CAP), and welcomes the Health Minister’s recent commitment for $50 million for solar panels on hospitals and to establish a new Office of Hospital Sustainability within the Health Department.

The briefing notes that much of its recommendations could be achieved through the next Queensland government investing more funds into the H-CAP Priority Adaptation Measures.

Professor Hilary Bambrick, Head of School, Public Health and Social Work at Queensland University of Technology, said:

"By listening to the science and following the advice of experts, the Queensland government has so far prevented the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This success has demonstrated that the government can act decisively to protect people against major threats to health.

“Whoever wins Government, and every representative of the new Parliament, must bring this same approach to the health emergency of climate change.

“Despite our attention being diverted this year by the pandemic, we must remember that 2020 started with our eastern seaboard on fire, and climate change is still continuing.

“Without urgent and meaningful reductions in emissions, the supercharged climate conditions behind Black Summer will continue to drive increasingly extreme events that are dangerous to our health for decades to come.”

Georgie Stewart, member of Townsville-based Social Workers for Climate Action, said:

“We are calling on the next Queensland government to commit to urgent climate action."

"It is already disadvantaged and marginalised individuals and communities whose health is most heavily impacted by climate change. For example, people experiencing homelessness are more at risk of suffering from heat stress due to rising temperatures.

The briefing calls on the Queensland government and all election candidates to commit to the following health promoting actions, which will also create jobs, support the post-COVID recovery, and boost Queensland’s climate readiness:

  • Commit to 100% renewable energy for Queensland by 2035
  • Expand existing initiatives and installing solar on all public buildings, including hospitals, schools, libraries and correctional facilities
  • Boost heatwave readiness before summer: ensure adequate heat shelters or cooling centres are located or built for vulnerable individuals and groups, including rural and remote Queenslanders
  • Invest in community mental health programs (e.g. resilience workshops, counselling services) that recognise the effects of climate change and environmental degradation and support people suffering from climate anxiety and distress due to climate change impacts on health, lives, livelihoods
  • Provide funding to expand monitoring and reporting systems for climate-related health presentations in emergency departments (e.g. heat-stress)
  • Develop an engaging community education campaign to raise awareness of, and promote resilience to risks arising from our changing climate
  • Expand the Office of Hospital Sustainability to a Healthcare Sustainability Unit that encompasses all areas of the health care system and establish a Queensland-based position to coordinate the local network of Global Green and Healthy Hospitals

Available for interview or comment:

Professor Hilary Bambrick
Head of School, Public Health and Social Work at Queensland University of Technology

Georgie Stewart
Social Workers For Climate Action

Media contact: Adam Pulford, 0424 885 387

The Climate and Health Alliance is Australia’s peak body on climate change and health. Learn more at www.caha.org.au