Pages tagged "climate"

  • Adani coal mine is a public health catastrophe

    Dr Kate Charlesworth writes on the "unacceptably high" health risks of coal mines

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  • Historic meeting in Canberra pushes for national action

    An historic meeting to push for national action on climate change and health kicked off early on Monday morning, 10 October in Canberra. 

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  • City of Sydney to divest from fossil fuels

    Great news from one of Australia's largest city councils: divestment of $500 million from banks that invest in fossil fuels.

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  • cohealth calls for unity and leadership on climate and health

    A powerful piece by cohealth's Chief Executive Lyn Morgain - one of our supporters in our campaign for a National Strategy for Climate, Health and Well-being.

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  • What does the Paris Agreement mean for health?

    Be part of the discussion at this important public forum on Wednesday 10 August, 5.30 - 7pm.

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  • The historic Paris Agreement: 2015

    Please see here for the historic Paris Agreement which recognises the first time the desirability of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.

    Below a comment provided to media on behalf of CAHA and further below some comments from civil society leaders from The Guardian, and others from the Australian civil society COP network. (Thanks to James Lorenz, Prue Pickering and Sam Webb).
    "The Paris Agreement is a positive response to the grave threats we face from our fossil fuelled societies and a clear sign the world's nations are willing to work together to help achieve the necessary and urgent transition to a low carbon world.
    This Agreement signals a shift from obstruction to cooperation, from rhetoric to action, and, we hope, marks the beginning of a global effort to protect and promote people's health and wellbeing through cutting emissions and combatting climate change."
    Fiona Armstrong
    Executive Director
    Climate and Health Alliance Australia

    "Green groups welcome draft Paris text"

    Here's what the many NGOs here in Paris think of the final draft. It's overwhelmingly positive with caveats.

    Avaaz "a turning point in history, paving the way for the shift to 100% clean energy that the world wants and the planet needs" WWF UK "We have a clear vision in the strong long term goal; mechanisms to address the gap between that aspiration and the countries' current commitments; and the foundations for financing the transition to a low-carbon future."

    Greenpeace "The wheel of climate action turns slowly, but in Paris it has turned. This deal puts the fossil fuel industry on the wrong side of history. There's much in the text that has been diluted and polluted by the people who despoil our planet, but it contains a new imperative to limit temperature rises to 1.5C."

    350.org "This marks the end of the era of fossil fuels. There is no way to meet the targets laid out in this agreement without keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground."

    EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) The agreement will send a powerful, immediate signal to global markets that the clean energy future is open for business. It makes a moral call for dramatic action that leaves no one behind, and it moves us closer to the crucial turning point when global carbon emissions, which have been rising for more than two centuries, finally begin to decline."

    Christian Aid "This is a historic agreement and the culmination of a path the world set out on four years ago."

    Cafod, Catholic aid agency "For poor people living on the frontline of climate change this deal offers hope for a brighter future, but not yet the security that we'll get there quick enough."

    E3G, thinktank "The transition to a low carbon economy is now unstoppable, ensuring the end of the fossil fuel age."

    ActionAid "what we have been presented with doesn't go far enough to improve the fragile existence of millions around the world"

    Dermot O'Gorman, WWF-Australia, CEO

    "The agreement puts in place a global framework that sees countries continually strengthen the pollution reduction targets they set over time."

    "Paris marks the end of the fossil fuel age, and the acceleration of the renewable energy era, sending a clear long-term signal to business and investors."

    "Now that we have a new global agreement, it's time for the Australian government to step up and put in place a long-term plan to achieve its promised pollution reductions. This plan should include policies to clean up and modernise our energy sector, and a ramp-up of funding to help vulnerable nations and communities adapt to climate change."

    Helen Szoke, Oxfam Australia, Chief Executive

    "The Paris agreement can be a major marker in the fight against hunger, poverty and inequality. But only if countries including Australia now match what has been agreed with action. And fast."

    "The real leadership in Paris came from those on the frontline of the climate crisis, including our Pacific neighbours, and from the millions of people around the world already working to build a resilient and sustainable future."

    "The outcome demands Australia now step up, transition rapidly from a polluting backwater to a modern clean energy economy, and provide far greater support to poorer countries with tackling climate change."

    Kelly O'Shanassy, Australian Conservation Foundation, CEO

    "For the first time in history, humanity has agreed to limit pollution and create a pathway towards a safer climate. Now the real work starts and Australia, as one of the world's biggest polluters, must do its fair share to cut pollution.

    "As we head into the 2016 election year, ACF urges Prime Minister Turnbull to listen to the millions of Australians and people around the world calling for a better future by making genuine changes that will unshackle our country from dirty energy and pave the way for a truly innovative renewable future.

    Ben Davison, Chief of Staff, ACTU

    "It is crucial as we make the transition towards a net zero emissions planet that it is a just transition.

    "Working people, low income households, the poorest nations and their communities should not bear the costs of the Climate change whether through job destruction, lack of access to new energy sources or destruction of their Eco systems.

    "While we would have preferred stronger language and more ambition, the paris agreement does provide us with a baseline from which to build that just transition and we will be continuing to work with civil society, business and government towards a better outcome after COP21."

    Josh Gilbert, Chair, NSW Young Farmers

    "The COP21 Paris agreement is an exciting time for Australia, particularly the Australian agricultural sector.

    "It is widely recognised that farmers are on the front lines of climate change and that there is a great opportunity for farmers to not only feed and clothe the world, but also power and empower our communities through renewables.

    "I also welcome comments regarding the importance of food security. In the next 35 years, farmers will need to double food production to feed an additional 2.3 billion people. While there will be challenges in Australia to help accomplish this feat, particularly climate change and urban encroachment, there is also a great opportunity to share our knowledge systems internationally with our colleagues.

    Jaden Harris, Climate Change Campaigner, Australian Youth Climate Coalition

    "This historic agreement gives young people hope that a safe climate future is still within reach. We're still on track for a 3-degree warmer world, which would devastate vulnerable communities worldwide, but now we have a structure to increase ambition and young people will lead the call to use it.

    "The transition to a clean energy future is inevitable, today confirms the fossil fuel era is coming to an end. Australia is being left behind, Turnbull needs to match our rhetoric in Paris with real change back home. Young people are missing out on the opportunities of renewable energy and the fairer society it helps create"

    Michael Jacobs, Senior Adviser for the New Climate Economy project, and former advisor to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown: "This is a historic moment. The world's governments have finally understood what the science has long been telling them - we have to act now if the earth's climate is to remain safe. Today they have committed to act - and to act together. Historians will see this as the turning point: the moment when the world started shifting decisively away from fossil fuels and towards clean and safe energy systems. Remarkably this effectively signals the end of the fossil fuel era. This is unquestionably a great success. But the work really starts now. These commitments now need to turn into policy, and policy into investment. They can congratulate themselves for 24 hours - now they need to act."

    Media contact: Benjamin Jullien, [email protected] +33 669 016 384 Jennifer Morgan, World Resources Institute: "This agreement would mark a true turning point in the global effort to address climate change. The text reflects both the push for high ambition and the voices of the most vulnerable. It accelerates the energy transformation that is well underway, pointing us to a safer and stronger future."

    Media contact: Rhys Gerholdt, [email protected] +1 202 341 1323 Monica Araya, member of the Climate Vulnerable expert group: "This agreement marks the beginning of a new era where we find good examples of climate action from all, developed and developing countries, because it is in everyone's best interests to do so. It is no longer about who is acting and who is not, but how strong the world can act together."

    Media contact: James Lorenz, [email protected], +61 400 376 021 Nigel Topping, We Mean Business (WMB): "This is a remarkable diplomatic settlement and a historic economic catalyst. The world's governments have sent a decisive signal to businesses and investors that will accelerate the shift towards a thriving, clean global economy. The Paris Agreement for net zero emissions will turn the billions of investment we've seen so far into the trillions the world needs to bring clean energy and prosperity to all. The diplomatic process that included businesses, investors, cities, states, regions and civil society created a powerful alliance which has clearly raised the level of ambition in the negotiations. Businesses and investors look forward to playing a continued role in turning this agreement into on the ground reality."

    Press contact: Callum Grieve, [email protected], +44 7734 399 994 Major General (ret) A M N Muniruzzaman, Chairman of Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change (GMACCC) Bangladesh: "Military leaders, assembled under GMACCC, realising the fragility of the situation call upon leaders for urgent action to implement the Paris agreement, to save mankind from the catastrophic consequences of climate change. The Paris agreement must be more than paperwork. Its success depends on a verifiable, implementable, transparent and fair agreement which is made accountable. The military has a new, definitive, more humanitarian role, to deal with millions of people on the move, and this will only grow over time as climate impacts bite."

    Press contact: Matt Luna, +31 68 394 8959, [email protected] Anthony Hobley, the Carbon Tracker Initiative: "A 1.5 degrees Carbon Budget means the fossil fuel era is well and truly over. There is absolutely no room for error. Fossil fuel companies must accept that they are an ex growth stock and urgently re-assess their business plans. New energy technologies have leapt down the cost curve in recent years. The effect of the momentum created in Paris means this is only going to accelerate. The need for the financial markets to fund the clean energy transition creates unparalleled opportunity for growth on a scale not seen since the industrial revolution."

    Contact: [email protected] Christoph Bals, Political Director at Germanwatch: "Our experience in Germany has shown that renewable energy can be scaled up rapidly with significant economic benefit. The decarbonisation signal from the Paris Agreement will increase and accelerate these benefits, but Germany still needs to up its game. Chancellor Merkel needs to commit to a plan to phase out the use of coal within the next two decades. The Paris outcome requires developed countries to come back next year with a credible plan for reaching their 2020 targets - that just is not going to be possible without a coal phase-out."

    Press contact 1: Vera Künzel, +33 643 80 69 99, [email protected]; Press contact 2: Katrin Riegger, +49 157 71 33 57 96, [email protected] Chris Field, Founding Director, Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology: "The world truly reached a turning point with the historic Paris agreement, but this is not a time for self-congratulations. This is our moment to unleash ambition with new levels of innovation, building the clean energy system of the 21st century, developing sustainably, and comprehensively protecting people and the planet."

    Muhtari Aminu-Kano, Senior Policy Advisor in Poverty Reduction at Islamic Relief Worldwide, an international humanitarian organization, and the former CEO of Nigeria's leading national environmental NGO: "Muslims living in some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable countries can be hopeful that this climate deal provides a foundation for positive change. In August, Muslim leaders laid out in a declaration, grounded in the Qur'anic teachings, their vision of the low-carbon future necessary for the peace and prosperity of the planet: while COP21 reaffirmed that this vision is necessary and feasible with strong political willpower, the various positive announcements of the last two weeks (and last six years) prove that it is already on its way to becoming a reality. There is still much work to be done: the Muslim community, in continued solidarity with those from other faiths and humanity at large, must now encourage those in Paris and beyond to live out their pledges and take responsibility as stewards of the Earth."

    Press contact for Muhtari Aminu-Kano: Lotifa Begum, [email protected], +447850226689
    Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist, Microsoft: "Microsoft stands with the many voices within the private and public sectors urging the negotiators in Paris to come to a final agreement on climate change. Reaching agreement on a long-term goal framework for cutting carbon emissions and achieving GHG neutrality is critical to address climate change. It will also provide the certainty required for corporations around the world to accelerate their low-carbon investments and foster the creation of a true low-carbon global economy."

    Kathleen McLaughlin, chief sustainability officer for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.: "We believe climate change is an urgent and pressing challenge, and it is clear that we must all do our part to reduce, avoid and mitigate the impact of rising greenhouse gas (GHG) levels. That's why we support the UN's call for the U.S. corporate sector to commit to science-based targets to reduce emissions. In addition, we have already successfully decoupled our growth from emissions, and recently announced that we exceeded our goal to reduce 20 MMT of GHG emissions from our supply chain."

    Kevin Rabinovitch, Global Sustainability Director, Mars Incorporated: "Back in October, we joined with the rest of the food and drink industry calling on global leaders to embrace the opportunity presented in Paris. Now really is the time for talk to become action and to meaningfully address the reality of climate change. Global policy makers should think big. Because big thinking leads to big results. Having a long term science based target will drive ideas and innovation, ultimately making what may have seemed impossible “ possible. We are on the cusp of a deal that can change the world. And as a business we are committed to tackling the climate challenges that face us. We hope that global leaders will do the same."

    Professor Peng Gong, Co-Chair, Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, Tsinghua University, Beijing: "Beijing's first-ever 'red alert' this week, called due to dangerous levels of air pollution in the city, is a clear symbol of the crucial importance of a strong climate deal here in Paris. Concerted action on climate change, particularly through a transition to clean energy, has immense potential to protect respiratory and cardiovascular health and to improve quality of life. In China, it is estimated that over 4000 people die every day as a result of air pollution, much of which comes from burning coal, and worldwide, air pollution is responsible for 7 million deaths every year: a shocking one in eight of all deaths. By accelerating the transition to healthy renewable energy sources and continuing to scale up climate ambition over the coming years, we can protect millions of people from air pollution as well as the serious health impacts of climate change."

    Dr. Xavier Deau, Former-President of the World Medical Association: "We the physicians have the ethical duty to stand for the health of the population, so do all the politicians here in France today. We leave Paris with a strong public health agreement and are encouraged to see elements crucial to the protection of health central to the final agreement. Millions of physicians around the world have their eyes on Paris and are now looking forward and calling on their governments to get to work protecting the health of their populations."

    Mr José Luis Castro, Executive Director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease: "The Paris Climate Agreement cements a decisive call for concerted action to reduce emissions which are toxic to human and planetary health. It is now the duty of the health community to work with others to ensure that these emissions are dramatically reduced “ to reduce exposure to leading NCD risk factors, limit global warming, and promote health for all."

    Ms Johanna Ralston, CEO of the World Heart Federation: "The adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement and its embedded references to health mean that NCDs and other health issues can no longer be side-lined in the global response to climate change. The NCD Alliance and its Federations are dedicated to ensuring a comprehensive response to create sustainable environments in which we can live, work and prosper."

    Ms Katie Dain, Executive Director, NCD Alliance: "The adoption of the Paris agreement is an unprecedented victory for people and planet, and a catalyst for the next phase of action. Now, all of government and all of society must come together in a coordinated response to mitigate the impacts of global warming, NCDs and ill-health."

    Professor Hugh Montgomery, Co-Chair of the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change: "The impact of climate change on everything from food production to heat stress and water scarcity means it poses the single biggest threat to global health. This agreement is incredibly important for beginning to ease that health burden, ultimately saving lives. It will also set us on a path to a cleaner, less polluted world which in turn reduces costs for our healthcare systems."

    Dr. Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, Climate Change Lead, World Health Organization: "Every tonne of carbon that we put into the atmosphere turns up the planet's thermostat, and increases risks to health. The actions that we need to take to reduce climate change would also help clean up our air and our water, and save lives. To take a medical analogy: We already have good treatments available for climate change, but we are late in starting the course. The Paris Agreement helps us take this forward and is a crucial step in protecting our climate and our health."

    Dr. Bettina Menne, Climate Lead, WHO Europe: "As doctors, nurses, and other health professionals, it is our duty to safeguard the health of our families and communities. The Paris Agreement takes us one step closer to securing a future which protects the public from the impacts of climate change - the defining health issue of this century. Today, we are leaving France with a deal that bolsters community resilience, strengthens our health systems, and helps to tackle inequalities."

     

  • UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres calls for transformation of world economy

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    CAHA Vice President Dr Peter Sainsbury is in Paris attending many of the side events accompanying the UNFCCC COP21 global climate change talks. He shares some reflections here on the process, stimulated by a presentation by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figures to one of these side events. "At the beginning of the second week of the COP21 negotiations in Paris, Executive Secretary of the UNFCC, Christiana Figueres, addressed a group of philanthropic funders. I was fortunate enough to be there and she was inspiring, but the message was also concerning. The whole speech, only 10 minutes, is available at http://youtu.be/vJOKGFZctPw I strongly encourage people to watch it.

    My summary, to whet your appetite, is: Ms Figueres began with some upbeat observations about progress in several domains over the last 12 months and then expressed her views that:

    · An agreement to tackle climate change would be nutted out over the next week, although it would be tough;

    · An agreement would probably be made about the direction of change but not the speed;

    · ˜a completely different economic development model' is required to effect the changes necessary;

    · Markets alone could achieve the change required but not quickly enough;

    · The science is clear that carbon emissions must peak by 2020 “ especially if we are to fulfil our moral duty to protect the most vulnerable communities;

    · We must focus our attention and help on developing countries “ they have increasing carbon emissions, increasing populations and increasing needs for infrastructure;

    · The energy needs of those without current access to electricity must be met with renewables “ but different finance models will be needed in different situations, for example for on-grid and off-grid communities;

    · We must find ways of working across not within silos, and for the long not the short term “ not easy for humans; The mantra is BAU: Business As Urgent.

    Why did I find all that concerning? Because while I am sure that we (the global we) understand the problem adequately and have sufficient technological solutions already available to us to keep global warming under 2C, I'm not sure that we have the social wherewithal (for instance common purpose and national and international institutions) to achieve the policy and technical changes necessary in the very short time we have left to prevent disaster. As others have observed: the laws of physics don't negotiate."

  • The health implications of energy choices in Australia

    CAHA Executive Director Fiona Armstrong was invited to speak at this high level health event held in Paris during COP21 - 'Health Professionals in Action on Healthy Energy and Climate' organised by Health and Environment Alliance Europe (HEAL) held at Conseil National de l'Ordre de Medecins (CNOM) on 4th December 2015. A transcript of her presentation appears below:

    Quote: "The health implications of energy policy decisions should be core business for public health professionals. Governments and policymakers are being influenced by industry incumbents to support the status quo; health professionals must highlight the direct and immediate harms to health from burning fossil fuels for electricity and transport, as well as the dramatic changes this causes to our global climate."

    Fiona Armstrong @ HEAL CNOM COP21 Healthy Energy

    "In Australia, it is estimated that the adverse health impacts from pollutants produced from coal fired electricity generation cost A$2.6 billion annually (likely a huge underestimate). The production?and combustion of petroleum and diesel for transport is a major source of air pollution that causes respiratory, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Air pollution results in 3000 premature deaths each year in Australia, and costs the nation up to $24.3 billion in health expenses every year. The DARA Climate Vulnerability Monitor estimated in 2012 the global costs to human health associated with the carbon intensive energy systems of the global economy is $540 billion each year, excluding health impacts resulting from climate change. If climate impacts on health are included, the total current cost to the global economy is estimated to be $1.2 trillion annually.

    • National action

    The Climate and Health Alliance has been leading an effort to focus the attention of health groups and policymakers on the health implications of energy choices since 2013. We convened a Roundtable of health leaders on this topic in 2013, including our Chief Medical Officer, representatives from public health, medical, and nursing organisations, as well as bureaucrats from health and energy departments, energy consultants and community advocates. We invited health sector stakeholders to consider their role in advocating for healthy energy choices, leading to the development of a Joint Statement as well as a comprehensive Position Paper and Background Paper on Health and Energy Choices (some copies are available here today and can be downloaded from the CAHA website).

    We also produced a film called the Human Cost of Power featuring public and environmental health experts discussing the risks to health from our current fossil based sources of power for electricity and transport as a public education tool. This year we turned our attention to the most carbon intensive region in Australia, the coal mining region of the Hunter Valley in NSW, in a report which documented the health impacts of the coal production cycle on local communities, and evaluated the economic costs associated with coal for local communities, for the regional and national economy and also to the global economy in terms of the contribution of Hunter Valley coal to global climate change. We have used these reports and the film to influence national and regional policy debates and have been successful in getting the issue on the political agenda in the case of the Hunter Valley report, with politicians from both major parties being publicly asked to respond to the report and its findings, and provoking a ferocious attack on the evidence we presented by the coal industry lobby group, who claims there was "absolutely no evidence" of harm to health from coal.

    Our calls for a moratorium on new coal are now being embraced by mainstream economic commentators, and the health impacts of coal now much more widely discussed in mainstream media. So far, there has been little response from national and state governments “ national energy policy documents remain delusional in the sense that they predict a strong future for coal and gas, and very often they ignore, and do not mention, climate change as an energy policy. From the community there has been a shift however, with a rapid increase in the take up of solar power, and adoption of energy efficiency measures, coupled with a carbon price, did lead to a drop in Australia's emissions a year or so ago. However the election of a Liberal-National Coalition government, with a climate sceptic as leader (only recently replaced), saw the removal of the carbon price and Australia's emissions are surging upwards again. Some of the responses from the NGO and third sector are more promising, with churches, universities, and superannuation companies pledging to limit their investments in coal. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians has pledged to divest from fossil fuels. Together with Doctors for the Environment Australia we will release a paper next year on the role of the health sector in divestment so we hope to see many more such announcements.

    • Lesson learnt:

    Casting energy policy as a health issue, and using it to draw attention to the health impacts of fossil fuel energy production, as well as being a climate change issue, has made the issue more accessible for some health professionals “ as they can appreciate the immediate, direct and local health impacts are an important issue for health professionals to intervene on. It helps to highlight the root causes and drivers of climate change as a point source health issue. This seems somewhat easier to grasp and to act on in some ways than the global impacts of climate change. The evidence shows that people care about their health “ and using this as framework for communicating the need for change in energy policy choices is something local communities and other advocates appreciate is powerful and effective in convincing many people (although not Australian politicians, yet) that burning fossil fuels is dangerous, outdated and there is no place for it in a healthy, sustainable, low carbon world."

  • CAHA at the Climate and Healthcare Conference, Paris, 4th December 2015

    Fiona Armstrong from the Climate and Health Alliance was a speaker at the Climate and Healthcare Conference, held during COP21, at Georges Pompidou Hospital, Paris, on 4 December 2015. The Conference was organised and hosted by Health Care Without Harm, the French Hospital Federation (FHF) and the French Federation of Private Non-profit Hospitals (FEHAP). Supporting Organization: Paris Hospital Associtaion (APHP). 15:50 “ 17:00 Panel 4: Governance and financing of the energy transition Moderator: Didier BOURDON, Assistance Publique Hopitaux de Paris (AP-HP), France

    • Sister Susan VICKERS, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, Dignity Health, United States
    • Joe GRIFFIN, Head of Environment and Environmental Wellbeing at BUPA, United Kingdom
    • Fiona Armstrong, Executive Director, Climate and Health Alliance, Australia

    FA-Climate-Healthcare-Conf-Paris-2015                

    A transcript of Ms Armstrong's speech appears below: "Thank-you for the opportunity to talk on this topic.

    The governance and financing of the energy transition are both huge topics, and in some ways are quite different in terms of the approaches that are being undertaken to effect the transition, with very different actors in play and different constituencies being targeted.

    There are obvious shortcomings with both governance and financing, and I will speak briefly about our association, that is, the Climate and Health Alliance's, with both in Australia.

    This is more about governance and financing of energy more broadly, not just in the health sector.

    In Australia, our electricity production is primarily from coal, and the coal industry is both politically powerful and like the industry internationally, delusional about the future of their industry and their culpability when it come to global warming.

    The coal industry is seeking to expand, refusing to acknowledge that achieving anything remotely like a safe climate (ie limiting warming to 1.5 or two degrees) is incompatible with a future coal industry.

    Our governments in Australia are first rate cheerleaders for the fossil fuel industry, providing (according to a new report from Oil Change International) $5 billion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry each year (some other reports put it at double this figure) (and like many high emitting nations, this is over 100 times more in subsidies to fossil fuel producers each year than $ to the Green Climate Fund) while enjoying the industry's donations to election campaigns, and state governments are seemingly addicted to the royalties paid by mining companies which they then use, somewhat ironically, to provide healthcare, education etcetera.

    We have been working with healthcare stakeholders in Australia to effect a discourse about the health implications of energy policy and encourage health organisations and advocates to see this as core business for health in the context of a ˜health-in-all-policies' approach.

    We have worked to highlight the economic costs associated health damages from continued production and combustion of coal and oil and gas for local communities as well as for the global community from climate change.

    One such effort is a recent study on coal and health in the Hunter Valley, in a report we called Lessons from One Valley for the World.

    The Hunter Valley is home, or was once, to some of the most picturesque landscapes in the country, in a fertile valley that made the region famous for fine wines and fast thoroughbreds.

    Both are now adversely affected by the creeping scourge of open cut coal mines, some of them eight kilometers long and several hundred meters deep.

    Also affected is the local community, whose health outcomes lag behind the state average, with children in the region more vulnerable to respiratory disease, adults more vulnerable to cardiorespiratory illness and many experiencing the mental and emotional health impacts associated with loss of the landscape, of farms and towns and villages as they are swallowed up by mines, the loss of friends, community, lifestyle, opportunities, and the attendant socio-economic impacts.

    The health costs associated with coal in the Hunter Valley has an adverse economic impact on the local economy (with $65 million pa in health harms in just two towns, Muswellbrook and Singleton, close to several mines, and through which the coal trains which stretch for kilometers pass; on the regional economy with a health cost of $200 million pa from the Valley's five coal fired stations; and on the global economy of $16-$66 billion pa from the social costs of carbon i.e.global damages from current coal production).

    The response of the government has been to insist that coal has a bright future, with members of the NSW Parliament holding what they called a Carnival of Coal in Parliament House one day in August this year (we eagerly anticipate a day in which they celebrate low carbon healthcare, or similar worthy initiatives!) while NSW Health bureaucrats have complained that our report has led to people contacting the department with concerns about their health.

    Heaven forbid that they respond with regulation to limit that harm! The coal lobby industry said, and I quote: "There's absolutely no evidence to support the claims made in this report." Well, unfortunately there is a substantial weight of evidence and none of it in the coal industry's favour.

    Just this week it has emerged that the industry and the state government in the Australian state of Qld are both implicated in covering up an emerging trend of increasing incidence of pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease, among coal miners in that state, echoing an international trend of increasing rates of the disease among young miners (ie around 40 years old) in the US.

    So there are governance issues to wrestle with, when democratically elected governments and their administrators are more influenced by industries peddling let's face it, profoundly dangerous products, than by health experts armed with scientific evidence.

    There isn't time to go into this now, but our efforts over the next few years are going to be more focused on mobilising health professionals are part of a wider social movement to demand accountability from our politicians and less about documenting and presenting the evidence for action, which we believe to be comprehensively addressed.

    To turn to financing for a moment, some of the more effective methods of shifting the financing of fossil fuels have been the divestment campaigns that are underway around the world encouraging (through public pressure and shaming, really), universities, churches, institutions, and government to stop investing in fossil fuels.

    I want to finish by talking briefly about policy, since this is a governance tool, and one through which we can effect change, if we can get governments to cooperate.

    We need this to happen at both a national, and local jurisdictional level, as well as internationally and the more we understand about what is happening, the more we can leverage the successes and work to close the gaps.

    Along with several of my colleagues in the audience, I have been involved in a global survey of national climate change and health policies “ figuring out what countries are doing to specifically respond to the risks posed to the health of their citizens by climate change.

    We had 35 respondent countries, and the survey revealed that most of them do not have comprehensive plans to protect health from climate change, most have done little or no work in evaluating health risks, and few were engaging the health sector in creating a climate resilient healthcare system or investing in research to understand vulnerable populations and infrastructure.

    This report from the World Federation of Public Health Associations recommends all countries develop a strategy to respond in the form of a national climate change and health plan.

    So I encourage you to look at this report, if your country is not represented, then complete the survey it contains to identify opportunities and gaps in your country and use it to advocate for a healthy response to climate change in your country, which includes the preparedness of the health sector, both mitigation and adaptation actions, and the engagement of health professionals in policy development.

    Additional to this work is a huge effort of advocacy for action at the local and regional level, as well as internationally, and this includes the recommendations for policy and action from health groups that are part of the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA), of which our organisation is part.

    A new briefing paper, called Health and Climate in 2015 and Beyond, is available on the GCHA website and it calls for, among other things for:

     

    • each country to include an evaluation of health benefits and risks associated with emissions reductions their Intended Nationally Determined Commitments (INDCs)
    • to urgently phasing out coal from energy systems
    • phase out fossil fuel subsidies and use the funds to accelerate the transition to renewable energy

    So there is an important role for health professionals and health organisations, that is all of you, to intervene in this effort “ to advocate for the energy transition, to participate in the effort to shift the finances away from fossil fuels, and to be part of demanding accountability from your elected representatives to respond to this as an urgent health issue, for which there is a comprehensive evidence base, and to make sure there are political and electoral consequences that the health community is helping to lead, if they fail to respond."

  • The world in which I want to grow old is within reach: Grace Fitzgerald at the Melbourne Peoples Climate March

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    Grace Fitzgerald gave this incredible speech at the Melbourne People's Climate March: "Two weeks ago, meteorologists announced that in 2015, global warming would for the first time pass one degree above pre-industrial levels.

    For a young person who has grown up in the knowledge that my future is inextricable from the climate around me, that landmark is terrifying.

    From a young age, I have ben told that two degrees of global warming presents a boundary beyond which the safety and security of my friends, family and community cannot be guaranteed.

    I hardly remember a summer without the devastation of fires, drought, floods and vicious storms that bit-by-bit chip away at my sense of security.

    Climate chaos is a reality in which none of my generation wants to live.

    As young people, we are lauded for our capacity to be idealistic and to envisage better things.

    For my friends and I, imagination is driven by a necessity to create a fairer, healthier and happier future than the outlook from 2015.

    We know we have the tools to create this future.

    We know that the solutions to the climate crisis are available to us, and that in achieving those solutions there are unprecedented opportunities to improve quality of life for all people, everywhere.

    I am inspired every day by the creativity and commitment of young people who are busily laying the foundations of climate justice.

    School students around the country are working with their teachers and parents to ensure their schools and communities are powered with renewable energy and producing minimal waste.

    On university campuses, students are demanding that the fees for our education are not used to fund the fossil fuel industries that are undermining our future.

    Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are inspiring us all with their devotion to custodianship of our natural home.

    Young innovators are leading the way in the renewable transition, development of fairer economic systems, and the redesign of our cities and food systems to create healthier lives for us all.

    We are challenging institutions, vested interests, political inertia and the behavioural status quo.

    We are doing this work so that we too can enjoy all the beauty of life on planet Earth.

    We are doing this work because to continue along the trajectory of business as usual would be to inflict suffering on those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

    We are doing this to protect and preserve the futures of our children and grandchildren to come.

    We do this out of love for one another.

    Margaret Mead told us to "never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world".

    I don't doubt it “ because I am seeing the world change as I speak.

    My peers talk of "when we solve the climate crisis", not "if we solve it".

    But we need help in ensuring a safe climate future.

    The sooner we slam down the brakes on climate change, the faster we will be able to tackle deeply rooted, systematic causes of inequality and inequity.

    The longer we leave it, the more precarious our capacity to survive and thrive will become.

    As we race towards two degrees I implore you “ please work with us.

    We can't wait for more negotiations, for another federal election, for the call to action of another angry summer.

    The world in which I want to grow old is well within our reach; we just need all hands on deck to make climate justice a reality." - Grace Fitzgerald is a medical student at Monash University, and in 2015 co-project managed the Australian Medical Students' Association Code Green project.

    A "climate octopus", Grace has worked in a volunteer capacity with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Doctors for the Environment Australia, the Climate and Health Alliance, Healthy Futures and 350.org.

    Grace has been on the Victorian Organising Committee engaging the health sector in the People's Climate Marches.

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