Doctors for the Environment Australia maintains its commitment to advocacy on climate change because this is one of the biggest threats to human health this century. Our quest to reduce fossil fuel usage is integral to action on climate change.
Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency, has indicated that the chance of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius this century is getting slimmer and slimmer—“in terms of physical and economic possibility”.
The door is being closed by fossil fuel usage: on a per capita basis Australia leads the charge in production of coal.
About 80 per cent of total energy-related carbon emissions permissible by 2035 to limit warming were already accounted for by existing power plants, buildings and factories, leaving little room for more.
Fatih Birol said “one dollar not invested now in reducing C02 will cost 4.6 dollars in the next decade to achieve the same effect,” yet all Australia states are rapidly lowering their commitment to reduce emissions.
It is clear therefore that DEA must have a continuing commitment to encourage governments to reduce fossil fuel usage as part of our health agenda. How DEA does this depends on opportunity and our human resources.
It might involve justifiably using health impacts to delay a development in fossil fuel; advocacy on the true cost of coal- the most expensive energy, and on the greenhouse impacts of gas; education of the community and politicians.In fact we are doing all these.
Subsidising fossil fuels
The most immediate impact on green house emissions could be obtained by stopping subsidies.
In health terms these subsidies to fossil fuels could be seen to be like subsidising ill health, their abolition is a health measure.
In 2009 the G20 nations agreed to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption over the medium term in order to foster green growth.
In 2010 global fuel subsidies totalled $400 billion. In 2012, $630 billion was spent on fossil fuel subsidies. Fossil-fuel consumers worldwide are receiving about six times more government subsidies than were given to the renewable-energy industry,
In Australia the recent budget again failed to take action on this issue. The diesel fuel subsidy for mining should have been abolished, that it was not attests to the power of the mining industry in influencing government.
Prior to the budget the Minerals Council of Australia ran full-page advertisements in Australian newspapers arguing against removal of the tax exemption for diesel. The only counter to this is the voice of the community and the organisations like ours.
The diesel subsidy in Australia costs billions of dollars and inhibits the change from diesel to solar technology in isolated communities.
According to the government’s Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics, oil is used to generate around 5 million MWh of electricity per year. If solar PV could capture half of this market it would drive a further 1900MW of capacity. This is greater than all the solar PV that has been installed in the country to date. Read more And for an overview