Open letter calls for PM to take action on escalating climate health threats

Tuesday, 04 May, 2021

Open letter calls for PM to take action on escalating climate health threats

Australia’s major health and medical groups have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, calling on the federal government to scale up emissions reduction strategies to prevent premature deaths and declining health outcomes associated with climate change.

HESTA Super Fund and the Australian Medical Association (AMA) have joined more than 55 health and medical groups in signing the letter, which calls for three key actions from the federal government:

  1. Prioritise health in Australia’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement.
  2. Commit to decarbonising the healthcare sector by 2040, and establishing an Australian Sustainable Healthcare Unit.
  3. Implement a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing for Australia.

Air pollution from fossil fuels kills 5700 Australians annually, and the Australian megafires of 2019–20 killed 33 people directly and hospitalised more than 4000 people suffering ill effects from the associated smoke pollution.

Climate and Health Alliance Executive Director Fiona Armstrong said, “The signatories of this letter include major stakeholders in Australia’s largest economic sector: health and social services, which employ over 1.5 million people. We are collectively urging the government to heed these calls to avert an escalating health crisis from climate change.”

Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven said, “We witnessed firsthand the direct and indirect health impact of climate change during the Black Summer bushfires and again this year during the NSW floods. This letter demonstrates the health sector’s commitment to addressing climate change, and it’s time our leaders matched this commitment.”

Joining HESTA and the AMA in signing the letter are organisations including the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, Doctors for the Environment Australia, and the Climate and Health Alliance.

Doctors for the Environment Australia Sustainable Healthcare Convenor Eugenie Kayak said, “The widespread health harms from climate change are profound, and impact all Australians and health services through increases in injuries and deaths from severe weather, mental health conditions and more.

“Every sector must play its part to curb climate change. Health care, which is guided by the principle to ‘first, do no harm’, has an added duty to protect health by being part of the solution, rather than part of the problem, and urgently reducing its large carbon footprint in line with the science to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

“The recovery from one health emergency, COVID-19, should be embraced as an opportunity to address our other global health emergency — the climate crisis.”

“We expect governments to make responsible decisions to protect the health of all citizens, as demonstrated during the current COVID-19 epidemic,” NSW Nurses and Midwives Association General Secretary Brett Holmes said. “Our government can no longer bury its head in the sand and refuse to address the climate health emergency.

“We are committed to protecting the health and wellbeing of nurses and midwives, and this extends to the communities they live and work in. Many communities are still recovering from devastating floods, catastrophic bushfires or prolonged drought, which have significant health implications — from air pollutants through to mental health impacts.

“While many of us are cutting emissions or embracing sustainable health care, our government is shirking its responsibilities. Too many lives have been lost or put at risk. It’s time our decision-makers act to protect people’s health, by acting on climate change.”

Click here to see the full list of signatories.

Image credit: ©

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