Climate change poses a major risk to health and healthcare systems.
The World Health Organisation says climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. We are already seeing the impacts of climate change on health – from increasingly frequent extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, bushfires, storms and floods; the disruption of food systems; increases in diseases; the exacerbation of chronic health conditions; and mental health issues.
Doctors are dealing with the impacts firsthand and are calling on the Federal Government to release a plan to prepare our healthcare systems for the impacts of climate change. At the same time, we want to play our part in the solutions. In Australia, healthcare is responsible for 7% of national carbon emissions. We’re advocating for support to ensure the healthcare system can reduce its own climate footprint. We need a healthcare system that is both climate ready and climate friendly.
We believe Australia must respect and learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and cultural knowledge in its climate change adaptation and resilience plans. We join many others, including businesses, farmers and community groups, in calling for an urgent transition to net-zero emissions across all economic sectors to address the underlying causes of climate change, with support to affected communities.
The Australian Government has committed to a National Climate, Health and Wellbeing Strategy. The Strategy needs to ensure our healthcare system is climate-ready and climate-friendly. It must be properly funded and include:
- A plan for equitably decarbonising healthcare, to achieve net zero emissions in healthcare by 2040
- Development of climate risk and vulnerability assessments and locally led disaster planning for the healthcare system; acknowledging that rural and remote communities are at particular risk
- Adaptation and resilience plans which acknowledge, support, and are guided by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership
- Equipping health and medical professionals with information, tools and
resources to support them to anticipate, prepare for and respond to climate risks
- Establishment of a surge health and medical workforce for deployment in response to extreme weather events.
The Australian Government should also:
- Create and fund a National Climate Change and Health Sustainability Unit to oversee the implementation of the Strategy
- Invest in a national Climate Change and Health Resilience Research Fund to identify resilience strategies suited to our health system
- Establish a Climate Friendly Health System Innovation Fund to provide grants to local health services for emissions reduction and sustainability initiatives.
Our asks are based on our comprehensive research report. As the report states: “The need for urgent action to address the health impacts of climate change is well-established. Australia is facing greater climate change impacts than many other parts of the world. Like all countries, Australia’s health system confronts the dual challenge of dealing with human impacts of climate change and reducing its own substantial contributions to the country’s carbon footprint.”
To contact the RACP about the Healthy Climate Future campaign, please email email@example.com
Read our Report:
Climate Change and Australia’s Healthcare Systems – A Review of Literature, Policy and Practice (commissioned by the RACP and endorsed by nine other medical colleges)Download