Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) commends the AMA for listing ‘Climate change and health’ as one of their Key Health Issues for the 2019 Federal Election.
Pleasingly, the AMA document emphasises that ‘human health is ultimately dependent on the health of the planet and its ecosystem’ and that ‘climate change is having significant impacts on the human health and health systems, and these impacts will increase in severity as the planet warms’.
These are messages that DEA has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of over the last 15 years, including with the AMA.
The AMA specifically calls on the major parties to:
• commit Australia to shouldering its fair share of the burden for global greenhouse gas emissions reduction by adopting mitigation targets within an Australian carbon budget;
• develop and fund a national strategy for climate change and health;
• pursue an urgent transition from fossil fuel energy to renewable energy;
• commit to reducing exposure to harm from nearby sources of air pollution, including by ensuring that current air quality standards are aligned with international best practice;
• establish an Australian Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) to coordinate efforts to enhance the environmental sustainability of the healthcare sector; and
• establish an Australian National Centre for Disease Control (CDC), with a national focus on current and emerging communicable disease threats, engaging in global health surveillance, health security, epidemiology, and research.
An urgent transition from fossil fuels is fundamental if we are going to avert unmanageable climate change and adverse health impacts.
Doctors and the AMA must continue, however, to emphasise both the urgency of this transition and the need for adequate mitigation targets as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at home and abroad. Especially as Australia's greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, signed during the Paris Agreement in 2016, are behind schedule, even though they were set too low to sufficiently address the looming climate emergency.
Hence DEA asks that the AMA challenges parties and candidates contesting the election to set higher emission reduction targets if they are serious about protecting the planet and the health of the community.
Parties and candidates should also be called upon to acknowledge that any expansion of fossil fuel mining and exports will add to the global burden of emissions, the global carbon budget and accelerate climate change.
Time for effective climate action is running out to protect the future health and wellbeing of Australians.
The IPCC, WHO and the Lancet Commission on Climate Change make clear that global emissions must fall significantly and faster in the next decade.
Unfortunately, the AMA`s election requests, whilst highlighting several important issues, do not convey the urgency of that message.