Pages tagged "Uncategorized"

  • Greening the health sector: think tank report

    The Climate and Health Alliance and Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Assocations co-hosted a "Greening the Health Sector Policy Think Tank" in Sydney in August 2012. This event was attended by 52 enthusiastic participants from a range of health facilities, state departments and universities. We certainly achieved our aim of starting an important conversation about how hospitals and healthcare providers can reduce their own carbon footprints (mitigation), and in doing so how the Australian health system can be strengthened through the promotion of greater sustainability and environmental health. While hospitals have a big ''environmental footprint'', many are finding that sustainability measures benefit patients and the environment and offer financial savings. We also discussed the role of the health sector in building capacity to deal with the impact of climate change on health services (adaptation). A Policy Issues Brief on this topic was drafted for the AHHA's Institute, and circulated to registrants ahead of the PTT. Download the report from the Think Tank here. The keynote speaker was Professor Peter Orris from the USA, Senior Advisor from CAHA's international partner organisation, Health Care Without Harm. Professor Orris is the Director of the Occupational Health Service Institute and Global Chemicals Policy Program at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, a component of a WHO Collaborating Center. Dr Orris has served as advisor to WHO, PAHO, Federal, State and Local Governments, environmental organizations, labor unions and corporations. A series of Canberra-based meetings were organized with Peter in the two-days ahead of the PTT including with the Minister for Health and Ageing (Tanya Plibersek), the Minister for Climate Change's Chief of Staff (Allan Behm), Senators Richard Di Natale and Nick Xenophon and officers from the Departments of Health and Ageing and Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Professor Orris also presented a seminar for the staff at the Department of Climate Change with about 50 attendees. Other speakers included:
    • Dr Kate Charlesworth, Public Health Registrar previously from the NHS Sustainable Development Unit
    • Mr Glen Hadfield, Manager, Asset Systems & Sustainability, Western Sydney Local Health District
    • Dr Forbes McGain, Anaesthetist and Intensive Care Physician, Western Health Footscray, Vic
    • Professor Tony Capon, Head of the Discipline of Public Health Faculty of Health University of Canberra
    The presentations from the Greening the Healthcare Sector Policy Think Tank are available here.
  • Crowdsourcing a new e-publication on climate and health

    CAHA's suggestion for a publication focused on the ˜health implications of climate change' was chosen from a pool of ideas for a workshop at the Melbourne Writers Festical last month. The idea was conceived by Melissa Sweet from the health blog Croakey who invited readers to submit ideas for new, health related online publications so that one could be selected for development at the New News Conference as part of the Melbourne Writers' Festival. Around thirty eager participants showed up for a high speed product development workshop dubbed "crowdsourcing a new publication". Workshop participants were asked to come up with strategies for community building, editorial, digital news and business development as well as next steps. After just one hour, we had a core idea: a publication/website that would to showcase the benefits of healthy sustainable societies through user generated content which was underpinned by scientific research and literature. A key message was that it should be about 'showing' not 'telling', and the content 'brains trust' advocated the creation of an appealing visual narrative - to help show what low carbon living IS, feels like, looks like, and in doing so, illustrate what the benefits are “ creating a pull rather than push factor. Read about some of the ideas generated and observer's thoughts on this fast moving workshop on Croakey and in a Melbourne Press Club report. CAHA's take on the outcome appears below in a brief overview of what a proposal for publication might look like: ****** Purpose/Aim of the publication To communicate climate change and global environmental issues in a public health frame that leads to changes in policy/influences policy Strategy To aggregate and connect community efforts to respond to climate change in a visible way through social media and digital platforms using stories, pictures, personal narratives and profiles Audience Various groups “ community, policymakers, media Groups with various levels of engagement with the issue “ the unsure, the confused, the early adopters Partners/Collaborators Others who are driving changes in community whether it is local initiatives such as a suburban food forest or transformation change through to national initiatives such as thought leadership and research on low carbon pathways Methods of Engagement Launch through social media and social networks Link to environmental and health groups Use various mediums to connect with various groups ie include blogs, research papers Need to approach from the point of view of "showing" not "telling" Opportunities and challenges The Big One: Capturing, modelling and communicating what healthy sustainable societies look like, feel like, are like! While there may be a range of different audiences requiring different strategies of engagement and messages/stories it may be possible to influence other groups ( ie policymakers through demonstration of community engagement) Building a community of interest around a personal connection to environmental change using a public health frame Provides an ability to interweave the evidence with community experience Using data journalism to demonstrate the cumulative impacts of individual action and sectoral change ie demonstrate the real life implications of policy ie Bill's compost achieves the following results for him, but what the implications of rolling out his approach to every household? Ie what are the economics involved in scaling up? What might the savings be - in emissions, and in financial terms? Challenges - How to connect with different audiences eg experts, policymakers, community, media? ********* Do you think you'd like to see this idea developed further? If you would like to be involved in taking this project forward, contact [email protected]

  • Transforming economics and governance for better health

    We're very excited about our upcoming workshop at the Population Health Congress in Adelaide on 9th September. We'll be really giving our brains a workout as we think about how to transform Australia, and society for that matter, to more sustainable, healthier ways of living. Sunday 9th September - Pre-conference Workshop, Population Health Congress, Adelaide Convention Centre This workshop will bring together some of the thinking that is emerging around the world that recognises that as a species, we are responsible for driving changes that are affecting global systems and our current systems of economics and governance are contributing to destructive practices that mean we are hitting up against ecological limits. What can we do about this? What contribution can health professionals make to reshaping our thinking about what it means to have healthy sustainable societies? What new systems are being envisaged and/or are emerging to respond to these challenges? Come and join us for a stimulating Sunday afternoon sesssion in Adelaide, from 1-4.30pm on the 9th of September 2012. PROGRAM 1.00pm Welcome to country, introduction to workshop “ Peter Tait 1.10pm Presentation: Transforming democracy “ Peter Tait 1.25pm Presentation: Reshaping economics for better health and sustainability “ Fiona Armstrong 1.40pm Presentation: The nuts and bolts of making things happen “ Bob Douglas 1.55pm Questions and discussion 2.10pm Break into small groups: What does this mean for me and my practice? 3.00pm Afternoon tea and networking 3.30pm Report back from groups 4.00pm Synthesise discussions, brief outline of workshop report, and next steps ABOUT THE PRESENTERS: Dr Peter Tait is a general practitioner who worked in Alice Springs for 20 years before relocating to Canberra in 2011. He is involved in clinical work, public health and teaching. He has had a long involvement in the environment and peace movements. He was RACGP General Practitioner of the Year in 2007. He recently completed a Masters of Climate Change at the Australian National University. Fiona Armstrong is a health professional, journalist, and climate and health policy expert. She is the founder and convenor of the Climate and Health Alliance, a Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development, and author of Our Uncashed Dividend: The Health Benefits of Climate Action and Shifting from Fear to Hope: Climate Policy Options for Australia. Emeritus Professor Bob Douglas is the former director of the National Centre for Population Health and Epidemiology at ANU. Following his retirement in 2001, he founded Australia 21 - a non-profit organisation developing research networks on issues of importance to Australia's future. Bob is the founder and chair of SEE-Change Inc which seeks to empower local communities to take action on climate change and their ecological footprint. He was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2000. Download the Workshop Flyer here (pdf) and download the Workshop Registration Form here. The Workshop Program is available here. The full program for the 2012 Population Health Congress is available here. This workshop is sponsored by the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) Ecology and Environment Special Interest Group (SIG).

  • Health ministers attacks on climate change action are just sick

    This article was published on The Conversation on 10 August 2012 via the following link: By Stephan Lewandowsky and Fiona Armstrong The ACCC has been vigilant about following up the 45 or so carbon price gouging complaints it gets each day. But who can stop the politicians? Their relentless carbon price scare campaigns seek to frighten, rather than inform, an increasingly polarised public who should be getting the facts on health and climate change. Take, for example, the Liberal Health Minister in Victoria, David Davis. His recent contribution to the climate discussion was a leaflet for distribution across Melbourne's eastern suburbs which suggested that the "carbon tax will hurt patients". He said that hospitals will face a $13 million "tax bill" because "Julia Gillard doesn't care." In actual fact, there is no such tax bill. Even if electricity costs rose by $13 million, it would reflect less than 0.1% of total health expenditure. Given that the Commonwealth will be footing the bill for 50% of the cost of hospital care from 2014, the states can hardly claim the burden as their own. The most effective method of protecting the health sector against future price rises would be to invest in energy efficiency and distributed energy generation systems. This would help manage future price increases as well as reduce harmful air pollution from burning fossil fuels for electricity. Air pollution puts many people in hospitals with respiratory disease and cancer. Because of this, the previous Victorian government set aside $460 million to make public buildings, such as hospitals, more energy efficient and therefore healthier. Carbon pricing is in fact a health protection measure. The World Health Organisation, the World Medical Association, the CSIRO, the United Nations Human Development Program, and the Australian Medical Association all call, and have been calling for years, for a policy to discourage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions because of the harm they pose to human health. Motor vehicle pollution is a killer: moves to reduce it should be welcomed. According to the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics, between 900 and 2,000 early deaths occur annually in Australia from motor-vehicle related air pollution alone. Coal-fired power generation carries a similar toll “ creating a health burden that, if reflected in the costs of electricity would effectively double the cost of coal-fired power. Mr Davis is Health Minister of a wealthy state in a developed nation. He cannot possibly claim to be unaware of the substantial body of evidence, present in thousands of peer reviewed scientific journals over several decades, that climate change poses far bigger risks to health than a small rise in energy prices “ especially when it is offset by generous subsidies to prevent those on low incomes from energy poverty. Indeed, the EU expects that a substantial proportion of the costs of emission reductions will be offset by co-benefits arising from improved health. And the cumulative health benefits are doubled if action is taken immediately, rather than delaying till 2015. The basis for Mr Davis's claims is a report commissioned by the Victorian Government. It was prepared by commercial consultant Sinclair Knight Merz and released to the Herald Sun, but otherwise not available publicly. According to the Herald Sun, it estimates an increase of $13 million in health care costs as a direct result of the carbon price. Mr Davis is not alone in making such claims; similar statements have been released by the NSW and Queensland governments. The Federal Shadow Health Minister Peter Dutton has attacked the (Labor) Tasmanian Premier for refusing to frighten her electorate with similar claims. These politicians have the job of preserving and safe-guarding public health. Instead of heeding the recommendations of every major medical body, those politicians see fit to attack a measure that is in their constituents' best interests. In addition to the direct harm to health from fossil fuels, climate change already claims 300,000 human lives annually. If not from science, where are Mr Davis and others getting their advice? Could it be from the Sunshine coast doctor responsible for the recent LNP motion to ban climate science from schools in Queensland, who thought he could disprove 150 years of physics in his back yard with two eskies and glad wrap? While the current legislation is hardly a sufficient effort to reduce emissions to the extent required, it is in line with widely accepted policy settings around the world and it is a first step in the right direction. What are the likely consequences of Mr Davis's claims and other egregious misrepresentations of the price on carbon? There is good reason to fear that those claims may be quite successful: we know that once a myth has been put into the public arena, it often resists any corrective effort, no matter how readily it can be debunked. Claims that arouse fear can be politically very effective, especially when combined with a seductively simple antidote “ getting rid of the carbon tax. The Australian media are notoriously incapable of differentiating fact from fiction, especially when it comes to the price on carbon. Indeed, we are not aware of any challenge to Mr. Davis's claims, and those of his colleagues, in the corporate media. George Orwell's "Ministry of Truth" has been enshrined into Western culture as a symbol for the chilling inversion of reality that results when facts become irrelevant and propaganda paramount. Victorians should be concerned that their "Ministry of Health" may likewise become known for opposing, rather than facilitating, public health measures that are aimed at managing the consequences of climate change.


    Stephan Lewandowsky Australian Professorial Fellow, Cognitive Science Laboratories at University of Western Australia     Fiona Armstrong Convenor, Climate and Health Alliance

  • A conversation with the Climate Commission

    Climate and Health Alliance members and other health professionals and health service executives met with the Australian Government Climate Commission on Wednesday 25th July 2012 at Sunshine Hospital to discuss health and climate change.

    The meeting was hosted by Western Health CEO Kathryn Cook at the new Sunshine Hospital and made possible by Friends of CAHA and Doctors for the Environment member Dr Forbes McGain and his colleague at Western Health, sustainability officer Catherine O'Shea. Commissioners Tim Flannery, Lesley Hughes, Roger Beale and Gerry Hueston and Commission media advisor Amanda McKenzie attended the meeting with around 25 people including health professionals from medicine, nursing, allied health, psychology and public health disciplines, as well as health care services and policy people. Some of the topics of discussion included: What does health sector know about climate change? What can be done to build a greater awareness among health professionals about the risks to health from climate change? What are the opportunities for the health sector to demonstrate leadership in responding to, and being seen to respond to, climate change? A lack of awareness among health professionals about the implications of climate change for health was raised as a barrier to the sector effectively responding. The education of all health professionals on climate and health was considered vital and urgent - including from undergraduate level to continuing professional development for the existing workforce. Professor Lesley Hughes presented the findings from the Commission's report on climate change and health and its latest report on climate impacts and opportunities for Victoria. Professor Tim Flannery explained why they were keen to engage with health professionals: to raise awareness about the implications for health from climate change but also to encourage health professionals to use their own status as respected members of the community to help build community understanding about the need to respond urgently to climate change. Professor Flannery's comments to media before the meeting summed this up: "Climate change is one of the serious threats to Victoria's health, especially those in our community who are most vulnerable, like the elderly and the very young. Few Australians are aware of the risks to their health and the health of their family and community. While much of the public discussions on climate change have emphasised the environmental impacts, a greater focus needs to be on the health consequences. Climate change must be considered a public health priority.'' The meeting was then opened to discussion, with participants encouraged to ask the Commission questions about their report and to discuss what needed to be done to raise awareness among the health community about climate change. Some of the challenges that were raised included:

    • the quarantining of public health sector budgets separating capital from operational expenditure made it difficult to make the case for the implementation of energy efficiency measures as the impact of costs were felt in one budgetary area and the savings realized in another.
    • Other socio-cultural challenges include the complex psychological responses to climate change and the difficulties in finding effective ways to communicate such a complex science in ways that are not disempowering and alarming. Serious concerns were raised about the neglect of mental health risks and the lack of preparedness to respond to severe risks to mental health.
    • The need to engage young people in particular was noted and the importance of including their voices and their concerns in relation to how we respond to climate change.
    • A lack of climate ˜literacy' among health professionals was considered a barrier to health professionals understanding the implications of, and the need to respond to, climate change. Education about climate change and health is needed in undergraduate and postgraduate curricula for all health professionals, as well as in continuing professional development for current practitioners, the meeting heard.
    • There is also a need for the health sector to gain an understanding of the gendered nature of the health implications of climate change and climate policy, especially in relation to the differential effect of climate change on women.
    • Other concerns were raised about the mistruths being promoted in the community by the Victorian Health Minister David Davis in a recent brochure claiming the carbon tax would hurt health by driving up energy costs.
    • While there is some degree of preparedness that will help the health sector respond to climate change, with emergency power supplies, and heatwaves plans, overall the health sector is not well prepared to respond to climate impacts. Responses to other risks to health from increased ozone, affecting respiratory health; food and water borne disease and threats to infrastructure from extreme weather event were not well developed and pose potentially serious risks.

    Climate Commission media advisor Amanda McKenzie advised health professionals to see the issue as an opportunity for the health sector to make a strong case for action to cut emissions that will also benefit public health and urged health professionals to use their respected and trusted role to build community understanding and action. Ms McKenzie's final question to the participants: "What can the Commission do to elevate the voice of health professionals on this issue?" is the subject of continuing discussion, and CAHA will share further feedback from members on this subsequently. The meeting closed with the message that the climate communications evidence suggests that when climate change is talked about as a health issue, people are much more likely to respond as they see it in an individual context and as something that is personally relevant to them, rather than as a global environmental issue which is distant in time and space ("in the future, someone else, somewhere else"). Coupled with the evidence that action on climate change can help reduce many existing disease burdens, and the esteem with which health professionals are held in the community, this makes for a powerful combination and a great opportunity for health professionals to influence this national and international conversation to help achieve better outcomes for health and wellbeing.

  • Health sector ill-prepared for climate change

    The Climate and Health Alliance made the following statement to the Productivity Commission's public hearing in Melbourne for the Commission's Inquiry into Barriers to Effective Climate Change Adaptation on Monday 16 July 2012: The Climate and Health Alliance has responded to the Productivity Commission Draft Report on Climate Change Adaptation out of concern that the issue of health protection through effective adaptation is being overlooked in Australia's adaptation responses and in the Commission's report. In 2009, the international medical journal The Lancet identified climate change as the biggest threat to global health of the 21st century. The risks posed by the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as heatwaves, fires, floods and storms and the injuries, deaths and trauma “ physical, emotional, financial - to health, require careful planning to help minimise harm. Rising temperatures lead to increased harmful air pollution and aeroallergens as well as increased risk of food borne disease; the changing climate affects food and water security; there are increased risks from vector borne diseases; and psychological impacts from a changing environment, ranging from solastalgia from a loss of the familiar natural environment to anxiety about the societal failure to respond, to bereavement, injury, displacement associated with extreme events. Health services are placed under increasing pressure during extreme events; supply chains of pharmaceutical and medical supplied impacted; and health professionals and emergency professionals themselves impacted personally, limiting their ability to respond. A temperature spike of eight degrees above normal led to 56,000 deaths in the Russian summer of 2010. In 2009, Victoria experienced temperatures between 12-15 degrees above the average. That single heatwave saw a 62% increase in mortality, from both direct heat related illnesses and associated exacerbations of chronic medical conditions. The Victorian Department of Human Services reported that during this five day event, ambulances had a 46% increase in demand; emergency departments experienced an eight-fold increase in heat related presentations; a 2.8 fold increase in cardiac arrests; and a threefold increase in patients dead on arrival. Monitoring these risks and preparing for them e.g. to track the health consequences of climate change and assess the adaptive processes in place should be an integral responsibility of government. Clear accountability for this responsibility is vital, as is the reporting of such monitoring so it is clear what adaptation strategies are in place and how effective they are.[1] The fact there is no submission from any health service agencies to this Inquiry reflects the lack of understanding within health departments and the health sector more broadly about the risks posed to health from climate change and the importance of protecting health through effective adaptive responses. We acknowledge and commend the submissions from the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health and the Australian Psychological Society which provide important perspectives on health but we regret the lack of broader engagement from other professions and health departments and health service providers. There are in fact excellent examples of some health services demonstrating leadership in helping communities adapt to climate change, such as the Southern Grampians and Glenelg Primary Care Partnership and Women's Health in the North here in Victoria, but too often these initiatives depend on the passion and commitment of individuals and much more work is needed to institutionalize a responsiveness to climate change across the whole health sector. This responsiveness however requires an understanding of the issue. Climate change poses serious risk to health and to health services and yet the understanding of those risks among the professionals groups required to respond is very limited. The lack of engagement with this Inquiry and with the issue itself suggests that health professionals and the healthcare sector have largely failed to grasp the risks posed to Australian communities from a failure to develop effective adaptation strategies or for the need for urgent mitigation. One of the key strategies for protecting health from climate change must be to enhance awareness of climate change and health among health and medical practitioners. This requires leadership from the instruments of government i.e. the public service in developing policies and programs to address this. And yet, despite, climate change being the biggest threat to public health we face this century, there is no-one in the federal department of health clearly responsible for developing policy to protect health from climate change. There is no-one in the federal department of climate change who has a clear mandate for policy development that acknowledges and reflects the risks to health. While there has been an energetic public discussion about the need a national policy response to climate change for several years, there has been little acknowledgement by any government of the imperative to protect health though climate policy. The Climate Commission has produced a report on climate change and health, but its messages are yet to reach the majority of health professionals. Communities can only effectively adapt to climate change is they understand the risks. One of the most cited reports on climate change adaptation in Australia is Community Engagement and Climate Change: Benefits, Challenges and Strategies produced by the McCaughey Centre in the School of Population Health at the University of Melbourne. This report states the development of effective adaptation and responses to climate change require: "assisting citizens and communities develop informed understandings of climate change", and that key success factors in using community engagement require "government policy frameworks to support and promote community engagement". While these may appear in a limited way among some local governments, deliberate and sustained community engagement on climate change has been missing in federal government initiatives until the recent establishment of the Climate Commission and sporadic at state government levels. While there have been some limited evaluations of climate literacy among health professionals internationally, little is known about the level of understanding about climate change among Australian health professionals. International evaluations reveal public health bureaucrats[2] and public health nurses [3] are ill prepared to respond to climate change and have not yet made climate change adaptation a priority. One study of public health department directors in the US suggests climate change adaptation and prevention are not currently major activities at most health departments, and that all will require assistance in making a transition to doing so. The 2012 evaluation of public health nurses' knowledge and attitudes regarding climate change suggests they lack a thorough understanding of the evidence regarding human induced climate change and its implications. Improving climate literacy among health professionals is a key adaptive strategy that has so far been overlooked in Australian policy responses. This requires engagement of the existing as well as the future workforce. Continuing professional development programs about climate change and health are needed for the current healthcare workforce, and education of the future health workforce must be made a priority.[4] Curricula for all health disciplines on the health impacts of climate change are needed “ all healthcare professionals should be trained from undergraduate through to postgraduate level on how to respond to the risks of climate change to health at the population, community and individual levels. A better understanding among health professionals will also contribute to better community understanding, given the important role of health professionals as communicators, educators, and civil society leaders. A paper in Australian Health Review by Weaver et al identifies six strategies for preparing the health system for climate change: health promotion; health protection; disaster preparedness; workforce development; strategic and service planning; and healthcare financing.[5] All these elements require specific focus and additional resourcing in the Australian health sector. Healthcare infrastructure itself faces risk from climate change.[6] More information is needed about future demand for health services, likely physical impacts on facilities and their ability to cope with these, strategies to improve coping capacity, associated costs, as well as integrated disaster plans to ensure health services can continue to function during extreme weather events.[7] There are many opportunities for the health care sector to respond to climate change in ways that reduce energy use, reduce waste, save money and improve health. The health sector needs to be supported to begin to implement adaptive strategies that will improve its resilience to climate change impacts, improve its capacity to deliver services and to provide an example of leadership in beginning to demonstrate the economic and health benefits of low carbon operations. Health care providers should be supported to reduce the environmental footprint of the sector in ways that will protect them from future shocks in terms of energy prices, water shortages and resource shortages. Adaptation measures that create a sustainable and resilient healthcare sector will provide ongoing benefits for the community. The Climate and Health Alliance recommends:
    1. The development of a National Plan for Health in Responding to Climate Change (Adaptation and Mitigation).
    2. A national community engagement campaign to build understanding about the risks from climate change.
    3. The development and implementation of programs to increase awareness among health professionals about the health risks from climate change to assist in developing more effective adaptive responses.
    4. A substantial increase in the funding available for climate and health research in Australia, including regional health impact assessments, and a specific emphasis on evaluating the health benefits of effective adaptation and mitigation.
    5. Increased investment in research on climate change communication to support translation of evidence into policy action.
    6. Improvements in disease surveillance, health risk monitoring, early warning systems, emergency response and disaster preparedness.
    7. Improving community resilience through greater investment in health promotion and disease prevention.
    8. Evaluation of projected health care demand from climate change; physical impacts on health care infrastructure from climate change; and projected associated costs.
    9. Increasing health sector resilience through initiatives to ˜green' the health sector.
    The Climate and Health Alliance's earlier submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Barriers to Effective Climate Change Adaptation can be found here:

    [1] Samet, J. Public Health: Adapting to Climate Change, Issue Brief, Resources for the Future, March 2010. [2] Maibach, E.W. et al. Change change and local public health in the United States: Preparedness, Programs and Perceptions of Local Public Health Department Directors, Climate Change and Health, PLoS One, 3:7, 2008.
    [3] Polivka, B. et al. Public Health Nurses' Knowledge and Attitudes Regarding Climate Change, Environmental Health Perspectives, 120:3, 2012.
    [4] Weaver, H. et al. Climate change and Australia's healthcare system, Australian Health Review, 2010.
    [5] Weaver, H. et al. Climate change and Australia's healthcare system, Australian Health Review, 2010.
    [6] Carthey, J. Et al. (2009) "Adapting Australian health facilities to cope with climate-related extreme weather events", Journal of Facilities Management, 7:1, pp.36 “ 51.
    [7] Carthey, J. Et al. (2009) "Adapting Australian health facilities to cope with climate-related extreme weather events", Journal of Facilities Management, 7:1, pp.36 “ 51.
  • The budget's black hole on health and climate change

    Where is the national strategy to protect our health from climate change? Where are the efforts to help health organisations transition to a low carbon sector? The budget failed to address these and other important health concerns around climate change, according to Fiona Armstrong, Convenor of the Climate and Health Alliance. There is an ongoing failure of the federal government and opposition to respond to the risks to health from climate change. We should be seeing commitments in this budget (and in proposals from the alternative government) to protect health by increasing investment in adaptation measures for vulnerable groups and resourcing organizations and groups that provide services to people who are vulnerable to health impacts from climate change. But adaptation by itself is nowhere near enough to protect health “ much greater attention must be given to mitigation “ there are many gains possible for health, in terms of improved population health, from strategies to reduce emissions. Cutting emissions should be considered one of our most important national public health strategies, with associated climate benefits accumulating in the long term, but from which the health benefits are direct and available immediately “ IF we choose to implement strategies to effectively cut emissions. We should be seeing a national strategy being developed to protect health from climate change, as well as investments in the health sector itself to transition to a low carbon sector, protecting healthcare budgets from future shocks associated with future energy price rises. A fiscally responsible strategy would be to help the sector realize its available energy efficiency gains and reduce its environmental footprint, such that the health sector itself becomes less of a risk to environmental health, and is able to weather the economic, environmental and social disruption that may lie ahead. This post first appeared on the online health blog, Croakey.
  • Lots of prescriptions issued at Climate and Health Clinic

    The Climate and Health Alliance along with Koowerup Regional Health Service recently initiated a Climate and Health Clinic - a two day event run as part of the Melbourne Sustainability Festival. With the help of more than 20 fabulous volunteers, the Clinic offered 'climate and health checks' to hundreds of festival-goers, and those who wished to could have their own prescription for 'climate and health'. The prescriptions acted as a checklist to assist people identify actions that they could take in their own lives that would cut emissions and improve their own and/or population health at the same time. Download Your Prescription for a Healthy Life and Healthy Planet - or even better, print some out and offer them to friends, family or patients. The popup clinic idea and the prescriptions offer a great health promotion tool to use the health 'frame' to talk about climate change, and help raise awareness of the health benefits associated with cutting emissions - a WIN! WIN! situation. Want to know more? View a couple of our videos from the event! What CAHA lacks in professional media resources, it makes up for in enthusiasm - so excuse the quality, but we hope you get the idea!  

  • Rolling the dice at Durban

    By Fiona Armstrong December 9th, 2011

    In the final week in Durban a sense of frustration is permeating the COP, where aspirations for a global deal remain high, but expectations swing between mildly hopeful and almost absent. The tone of the Australian delegation is one of determined but checked progress, maintaining there will be positive outcomes on some issues while keeping expectations low. Australia continues its dream run in terms of public sentiment here, where many international delegates are under the impression that Australia's carbon price legislation has real significance in terms of emissions reductions, seemingly unaware of the tiny step it actually represents. Still, the misconception is creating goodwill and perhaps even pressure on other countries to commit to binding targets at the international level, so what is lacking in policy efficacy is being made up in PR kudos, at least for now. In terms of progress in the discussions, China is signalling a openness to legally binding obligations but stonewalling by New Zealand, Canada, Russia, the US and Japan means there is little hope of any final decisions on legal form. Many negotiating efforts by the big polluting nations appear to be about delaying decisions for as long as possible, with the staggeringly irresponsible date of 2020 for mandatory emissions cuts being advocated by the US. The options currently being pursued range from: retaining some aspects of the Kyoto Protocol, but with limits to offsets, greatly enhanced measurement, verification and reporting, and the development of a new legally binding instrument to be agreed at COP18; to securing some agreement on mitigation measures but with the decision on legal form delayed until 2020. A review of global targets is being proposed to raise the level of commitments, but India, the US and China all want that delayed until after a scientific review slated for 2015. Filling the coffers of the Green Climate Fund, for adaptation and mitigation in developing nations agreed to at Cancun, is also proving difficult; promised funds are failing to materialise and many nations are reluctant to name the figure they will commit in order to realise the agreed goal of $US100 billion per year by 2020. Hopes of a fast start, that would see substantial funds committed between 2010 and 2012, are now looking a bit shaky. Ensuring these funds are a) delivered and b) new and additional (i.e. not rebadged aid funding) is the main game. Too little discussion has been had about additional ways of raising funds, however redirecting fossil fuel subsidies is an obvious choice, with the Robin Hood tax (a minuscule tax on financial transactions that could potentially raise US$400 billion a year) another obvious contender. Bad behaviour by countries here at the COP is rewarded with the title of "fossil of the day". Winners to date include: Turkey (for its 98 per cent growth in emissions post 1990 plus seeking Kyoto $ to spend on coal and roads); the US (for turning up but only wanting to discuss climate action in nine years time); Canada (for refusing to cooperate with just about everything); and New Zealand and Russia (joint first place for wanting to benefit from Kyoto but not be bound by it). In the meantime, global emissions increased 6 per cent last year and millions of hectares of forests disappeared. The rate of global deforestation is 14.5 million hectares each year, as forests are converted to agricultural land to feed the inexorably rising global human population. The gap between reality and commitment makes these a rather surreal set of discussions, the nature of which is well captured in this quote from Climate Action Network Australia Director Georgina Woods: "We are all struggling to find a way to describe the kind of banal failure that is at risk of emerging here. I arrived steeled for major drama, hysterics and intensity; what's happening instead is potentially worse “ a slide into oblivion masked by the veneer of progress. Because there certainly is progress. The LCA text [long term cooperative action] represents a huge amount of work by negotiators in the last 12 months, and encompasses many things that the people of the world need and want to deal with climate change¦ and yet¦ putting off the major decisions¦ leaves open the possibility that they will find the important decisions all too hard, and find shelter together in their cowardice, and guiltily cobble together agreements that have the semblance of cooperation, but do not change the trajectory we are already on: towards a four degrees warmer world." Current existing pledges fall well short of what the science indicates is needed to give us only a modest chance (66 per cent) of limiting warming to 2°C (itself a target that is not considered desirable or safe), so it's no wonder a lot of talk here is focusing on the ˜gigatonne' gap, or emissions gap, that exists between pledges and the actual emissions cuts needed. Global emissions leapt in 2010, but a recent UNEP report says this puts us on track to be 12 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2e over what we can afford to emit if the world is to have any hope of staying below 2ºC, a goal described by NASA climate scientist Jim Hansen as a recipe for disaster. What do we really want from Durban? Ideally, Ministers would go home having agreed to a multilateral approach to addressing climate change, with a combination of legally binding instruments, decisions, rules and guidelines. These should be, in the words of the COP President, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa's International Relations Minister, "pragmatic, effective, timely and appropriate." This would require documented commitments for which there are consequences if countries fail to keep them: mechanisms for ensuring emissions trajectories are consistent with the timeframe that science indicates; sufficient climate financing for developing nations to adapt as well as begin their own low carbon transitions; and action from all countries, led by the industrialised nations. It's not the case that there have been no genuine efforts to reach agreement. Indeed it seems there has been many constructive discussions, some of which may well have been influenced by the COP President's invocation of ˜Indabas' “ a traditional form of South African participatory democracy in which people come together in the spirit of ˜Ubuntu,' being motivated by the common good, to discuss a matter of great importance and to solve intractable or difficult collective problems in ways that benefit the community as a whole. (Sound familiar?) So, what have we got without a global deal? It seems increasingly likely that we will see emerging cooperation between nation states, as bilateral and regional deals are made. Some pressure may come from developing nations who refuse to provide offsets for wealthier countries who fail to act. Aside from those, we are left, largely, to rely on domestic policy commitments to deliver emissions reductions and the hope that commercial competitiveness and the actions of individual nation states will deliver a sufficiently broad rollout of clean renewable energy to see emissions peak in the timeframe left to avert runaway climate change. The German Advisory Council (WGBU) remains cautiously optimistic this can be achieved and is working to facilitate that by offering a roadmap for a transformation to sustainability to any country or group of countries willing to take the lead. Their Social Contract for Sustainability offers willing leaders the opportunity to showcase how ambitious and committed actions can create a new pact for sustainability and demonstrate how breaking away from existing destructive pathways can deliver greater equity, social wellbeing, and economic security. WGBU estimates the global cost of transformation would require $US200-$US1000 billion a year by 2030. This may seem a massive investment, but one they consider manageable through innovative business and financing models. They warn if it is not made, the costs associated with the economic, environmental and social disruption that a wildly unstable climate would be much, much more. To create a bit of perspective, we already spend $500 billion globally each year on fossil fuel subsidies “ a source of finance that would be more usefully deployed in a renewable energy transformation than driving dangerous climate change and causing millions of deaths from harmful air pollution. In light of a less than optimum outcome from our governments, it's encouraging other actors are not only envisioning but developing the roadmaps we need as a global community to reverse our current destructive path and shape a new future for our planet and our species. But we should also prepare to be surprised, in the hope that those negotiators in Durban will reveal their hands as stronger than we thought. After all, they won't be revealing all their cards till the very last. And before they do, may we hope they recall the words of that esteemed South African, Nelson Mandela, when he said: "It always seems impossible, until it is done."
  • Why we need to transform Australia: leading public health expert

    First published by Melissa Sweet on the health blog Croakey Emeritus Professor Bob Douglas writes: Earlier this month in Geelong, I attended a National Summit on "Transforming Australia". This was a three-day meeting of 60 invited activists from various civil society groups around Australia. We were united by a common concern that Australia will not be able to deal effectively with the problems that now confront the human world without transformative change in the way we manage our institutions, and especially our economy. The firm view of this group was that simply tinkering around the edges of "business as usual" is a formula for national catastrophe. The starting point for most of the participants was that we must urgently transform our governance, our economy and our culture in ways that will permit our descendants to live within the limits of nature's economy. Australia's political system is largely ignoring the seriousness of the gathering storm that includes climate change, peak oil, disastrous loss of ecosystems, increasing world hunger and inequity and continuing growth in the human population. It is currently incapable of addressing these issues because it is being corrupted by the special interests of the status quo. If our children are to survive to a ripe old age we must transform our political institutions, including especially the way they are funded. The Geelong Summit was the 5th meeting I have attended on this topic in the past 18 months. The Transform-Australia movement is still in its infancy but it is a growing network of thinkers, researchers, environmentalists and social policy activists. The summit was an opportunity for sharing understanding and assets and to explore together, the process of building a radically new way of thinking about Australia's future. Of course, similar movement are developing in other countries around the world. Ours is not the only political system that is proving incapable of dealing with the realities that threaten our habitat. But the consequences for Australia if we do not do so are more disastrous than in many other parts of the world. Already it seems from evidence presented by a national expert on the matter, our marvellous coral reefs are almost certainly doomed. There was much discussion about the factors that motivate change. Fear for the future is a strong stimulus to denial. Genuinely believing that a better and more attractive future is achievable is more likely to result in openness to radical change than lots of doom-saying. That being said, we can no longer ignore the scientific evidence that our human world has already crossed a number of critical natural boundaries, which means that we have exceeded already by about 50% the Earth's capacity to sustain us in our current use of resources and release of waste. Yet, still our population and the global economy are growing and eroding these precious resources. So, where to next? We are a smart species; too smart I hope to hasten our own extinction. Smart enough also I think to recognise that there are greater satisfactions in being alive then simply possessing more "stuff". Realistic enough to understand at last that limits to growth have been reached and that we are capable of designing a stable state economy that will work, not just for some people, but for all of us, and the planet's health as well. All of this will clearly take some time and those who are frightened of change will resist it if they can. A number of groups now exist in Australia, committed to the transformative task. The Transform-Australia Group, which helped to convene the summit, has a website and a Manifesto, which it invites ordinary citizens and community groups to endorse. The Transform Australia Manifesto spells out a vision, mission and values as well as aspirations for the evolving movement. Its current supporters include a group of 10 catalysts who see their task as promoting broad scale community understanding of systems thinking and the shift in mindset that is required in the special circumstances that we now face. The Vision for the Manifesto reads as follows: "Our vision is for a Transformed Australia, where the well-being of all humans and the health of the planet are synonymous; where we accept that nature is our provider and we are its stewards; where we acknowledge that our economy, ecology and ecosystem are interdependent; and where a sustainable future for our descendants exists". If you have read this far, I hope you will visit the website, consider the manifesto in its entirety and append your name as a supporter of the principles espoused there. Essential change will only come as a result of the will and insistence of people in the community. Leadership will not come from our politicians on this matter but they will respond to the community's lead. Bob Douglas is Chair of SEE-Change ACT and a catalyst with the Transform Australia group. He is a medical epidemiologist, and was formerly the Director of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at The Australian National University. Croakey This article was first published on 21st Otcober 2011 on the Crikey health blog, Croakey.