Australia finally has a net-zero plan at the Commonwealth level. But so far, health hasn’t been factored into Australia’s national climate response. The federal government has not announced any plans for the sector or, more broadly the health of Australians.
This is despite experts warning climate inaction is putting lives at risk and could overwhelm our health system, and Australia’s health sector accounting for 7% of the country’s carbon emissions.
The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (also known as COP26) will see countries arrive in Glasgow. They will be making significantly more commitments than those made in Paris in 2015.
Health is clearly on the agenda. The UK government has already announced that they will be implementing a COP26 Health Programme, calling for governments to take action to ensure climate resilience and low-carbon systems of health.
But when it comes to how the health sector is affected by, and contributes to, emissions, Australia’s response is missing in action.
Australia’s report card
The COP26 Health Programme’s rationale is that climate change is driving poorer health outcomesIncreasing deaths, and health inequities.
However, health systems can be a significant part in the solution.
Increase global ambition for reducing emissions
Help protect people from the negative impacts of climate changes
They can make a significant contribution in reducing emissions at both the national and global levels.
Australia is one of Earth’s most climate-vulnerable countries. Hotter and more hostile climates pose dangers to the natural world as well as the human population. Extreme heat can be dangerous impacting worker productivity, affecting outdoor community and sporting activities, and driving critical workforces such as doctors, away from Northern Territory.
Bushfires, smoke pollution, and other extreme weather can have negative health effects. drives up demand for urgent health care. We have seen that infectious diseases such COVID can be transmitted, as well. can render our societies inoperable.
In a warming world, novel viruses and infectious diseases such as COVID are likely to increase. due to human-caused destruction of natural environments (to feed our unsustainable appetite for “growth”) that otherwise provide a buffer against disease.
As we know, when health-care system are unable to manage a crisis like COVID many will be left behind other health problems get ignoredThis can lead to worsening of health outcomes due to other causes.
Coronavirus is a wake-up call: our war with the environment is leading to pandemics
Recent analysisThe Commonwealth does not recognize the health effects of climate change on Australian policy. At the state and territory levels, policy action is just beginning.
The federal government’s net zero by 2050 pamphlet, The Australian Way, doesn’t address the risks and opportunities for the health sector, despite its significant contribution to national emissions. This is mainly due to the large energy requirements of private and public hospitals. The majority of these energy demands are met by coal-powered electricity. Production of pharmaceuticals is also very energy-intensive.
Australia’s failure to address the health impacts of climate change in its climate planRecently, it was awarded 0/15 compared to other countriesCOP26 is being hosted by the Global Climate and Health Alliance.
The Australian government didn’t integrate health into climate policies on any of five measures: health impacts and health in adaptation measures.
Australia’s update to the National Climate Resilience and Climate Adaptation StrategyThis document was released quietly ahead of COP26 and mentions well-being and health. However, it clearly delegates responsibility to the state and territory as well as local governments.
The Queensland government has been the leader so far. It was formed in Human Health and Wellbeing Climate Adaptation PlanIn 2018, high-level guidance will be provided to help manage the health risks associated with climate change and reap the benefits of climate actions.
Victoria released a new book recently. draft Health and Human Services Adaptation Action Plan, as part of its commitments under the state’s Climate Change Act.
In Western Australia, a one-year-long Climate and Health Inquiry resulted in a comprehensive 2020 report. Climate action is crucial. the McGowan government said, “for health system sustainability and [because] the benefits of change far outweigh costs when health is factored in”. Implementation is still not complete.
New South Wales supports human health and social impact research at the University of SydneyHowever, a strategy or adaptation plan has not yet been released.
Other states have already announced initiatives, but there are no state-wide plans.
Australia needs a national approach to combat the health effects of climate change
Change starts at the top
Despite not having a guiding policy in place, the vast majority (over 90%) of Australian public hospitals and other health services have joined. Global Green and Healthy Hospitals. This international network of health institutions works to reduce their carbon footprint and improve their environmental impact. Members include Queensland Health, Victorian Department of Health, and the ACT Health Directorate.
Without the coordination at the national level called for by health groupsThis could lead to a fragmented approach that limits effective adaptation and increase costs.
Over 50 health organizations offered services last week over 175 recommendationsTo reduce greenhouse gas emissions in ways that promote and protect health and well-being. These include a 75% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, rapid decarbonisation of health care and the phasing-out of fossil fuels and transportation by 2035.
While federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the federal government’s plan is “good for health”, health stakeholders are less convinced.
Most countries now have national climate and health plans.
The recent COP26 Health Roundtable for Australian, New Zealand and Fiji health ministries was attended by seven of the eight states and territories – Tasmania and the federal government didn’t attend.
The roundtable was intended to encourage subnational and national governments to make commitments in developing climate-health adaption plans. low carbon and sustainable health care.
Fiji has already made such commitments. They will be announced by Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus (World Health Organization) in Glasgow. on November 9. But none of Australia’s state, territory or national representatives have yet made the pledge.
The global health community is paying close attention. The letter was signed by approximately 450 organizations, representing 45 millions health workers in 102 nations. sent to all national leaders attending COP26requesting that health be included in all national climate plans.
The WHO has published a report. The Health Argument for Climate ActionA set of ten priority actions that governments can take.
In their COVID recovery programs, they should align climate and public health obligations
The importance of putting health at center of global climate talks
Prioritising climate interventions that have the greatest economic, health, and social benefits.
We hope that the Australian government and all leaders in Glasgow will listen.