DEA is proud to bring you the Story of Green Hospitals, a must-view short video on sustainable healthcare by our talented medical student members! While hospitals are designed to improve health, they also contribute to the burden of disease because of their significant environmental footprint. There are a range of practical solutions that hospitals can adopt to improve health outcomes for people and planet, as well as reduce costs to the healthcare budget. View now!
Our healthcare sector produces 7% of Australia's emissions. Hospitals are only responsible for half of that, but there are many ways to reduce their environmental footprint and improve sustainability. DEA's Dr Forbes McGain, an expert in sustainability, outlines five of them.
The Department of Planning and Environment and the Planning Assessment Commission in NSW knocked back an application for the Rocky Hill coal mine because the development is not in the public interest. The mine applicants will challenge this decision at the Land and Environment Court in August. NSW doctors, including DEA members, have written a Letter to the Editor of the Gloucester Advocate about their concerns, and have also urged readers to attend a public meeting on Wednesday 23 May at 6.30pm at Gloucester Soldiers Club. Want to know more about DEA's position?
In his Budget reply speech last week, Opposition leader Bill Shorten mentioned tax 39 times and climate change twice, while hospitals were mentioned 12 times. Shorten missed an important opportunity to advocate for urgent climate action, according to Professor David Shearman who is the Hon Secretary of Doctors for the Environment Australia and Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of Adelaide. Shearman says the 2018 federal budget should have been a piece of cake for climate and health, leadership and democracy. Instead, the carve-up of the budgetary chocolate cake was driven by self-interest, rather than care for future generations.
The communities around the Vales Point coal-fired power station in NSW suffer an increased incidence of asthma. The power station may now face stricter and more consistent pollution licensing as a result of recommendations from the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA). DEA and Environmental Justice Australia have had a significant role in bring this about as you can read in this article.
Emissions reduction targets are not an idle, notional concept but give reassurance and certainty to those involved in changing the energy mix.
DEA suggests that the Victorian government should be setting strong targets up to 2030 in pursuit of its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, in order to safeguard the health of future generations.” Read full article in Renew Economy.
Among the long list of initiatives aimed at giving Australians a “fair go”, Opposition leader Bill Shorten’s much-awaited budget reply speech did not offer anything new on climate change, emissions or renewables. This is despite the urgent need to address global warming, a public health emergency whose impacts we are seeing daily through avoidable sickness and deaths from extreme weather events. Nonetheless while Labor could have dared to be bolder, raised the bar that much further on climate policies, these are a step in the right direction.
The Tasmanian Government may well be celebrating an apparent benchmark of becoming Australia’s first carbon neutral state 30 years ahead of its plans. But as Dr Rohan Church writes in this opinion piece, the reality is that the Will Hodgman Government is riding on the back of a collapse in the logging industry, and has taken few, if any, active steps towards this goal.
A Healthcare Sustainability Unit (HSU) would assist the Australian health care system (primary, secondary and tertiary) to deliver quality health care in environmentally and financially sustainable ways. A HSU could lead research, policy development, system changes and education of staff, fulfilling a central national co-ordinating role for maximum effectiveness and successful implementation of initiatives at state, regional, health network, hospital and practice levels.
Download the DEA HSU Proposal 05-18
To initiate change within large highly structured organisations such as hospitals is not easy. Doctors for the Environment Australia’s (DEA) practical guide therefore aims to identify areas where change can most easily be initiated to improve a hospital’s environmental impact. Though some suggestions may be seemingly trivial, experience indicates that all of the suggestions in this guide can have a positive impact on environmental outcomes and that doctors can help instigate change. 58% of the NHS’s 2015 CO2 emissions were from the procurement of goods and services (15% medical drugs) whilst powering of buildings contributed to 20% of emissions and staff and patient travel 12%.
Download the DEA Sustainable Hospitals Guide - practical assistance
It is the opinion of DEA that the federal budget was a short-sighted political maneuver at the expense of a looming climate crisis that will weigh heavily on our children’s future. The scant attention to climate change mitigation and adaptation will dent the government’s capacity to deliver these goals. The budget failed health by almost halving climate spending to $1.6 billion, dropping to $1.2 billion by 2020, and by phasing out of the Renewable Energy Target by 2020. This shows there is no commitment in this budget to do anything about curbing emissions beyond this time.
DEA is concerned by the outlook for human and planetary health of inadequate control of global warming and climate change. In a submission to the Victorian government on emissions reduction targets, DEA supports the leadership and actions undertaken by Victoria in the absence of genuine action by the Federal Government to meet Australia’s commitments to the Paris Agreement 2015.
“The state's five coal-fired power stations are allowed "unnecessary variation" in their pollution and operate "well below" licensed limits, providing scope for more consistent and tighter controls, the Environment Protection Agency has found”.
In other words they pollute and are contributing to ill health and causing deaths! DEA and EJA, named in the article, have been working on this reform for some time and the statement by the EPA is an important step forward; the next step is to have the licensing fee for pollution raised as detailed in DEA submissions to Federal and NSW Parliaments. Read it in the SMH and Brisbane Times.
While general practice has a relatively small environmental footprint, its role is important in the broader context of sustainability... Sustainability in health is more than just about “greening” the health sector, although environmental sustainability is an important consideration. A sustainable health and care system needs to be able to go on forever within the limits of financial, social and environmental resources. It needs to deliver high-quality care and improved public health without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage. Read full article in the Medical Republic or on the DEA website.
"There is no planet B" says President Macron in an electrifying speech to Congress, yet for most of us climate change is of much less concern than the cost of living, taxes, schools and health services. As a slow creeping threat, "unlikely to affect me much anyway", climate change is easy to dismiss and therefore is never high on the election stakes where it is easy for our leaders to say they are doing everything they should — which they are not. Read full article on ABC NEWS online
DEA doctors in Tasmania have been alarmed to see escalated threats to biodiversity with renewed and seemingly accelerated destruction of native forests in the takayna / Tarkine region. DEA has called for a halt in logging. Read more.
On April 14, Doctors for the Environment Australia's national conference issued a joint statement to state and territory Energy Ministers from 150 concerned GPs, emergency doctors, public health physicians, paediatricians, physicians, surgeons, medical students and other health specialists. It said: “As doctors, we call on the energy ministers to enact energy policy that protects public health as a matter of priority”. Read on.
The scale of the developments in WA is enormous: a recent report states that the total global emissions from all of WA’s gas reserves (conventional and unconventional) is equivalent to 36.4bn tonnes of C02, that is eight times more than the planned Adani coal mine would produce in its lifetime.
At a time when marine ecosystems are under threat from climate change increase in sea water temperature and local pollution, widespread cutbacks to marine sanctuaries are proposed by the Coalition government. Read the article by Katherine Barraclough. This is a further indication of the governments ignorance on the fundamental importance of ecosystems to human existence detailed in a recent DEA submission.
At the IDEA conference in Newcastle Dr Steve Robinson received an award for exceptional dedication to DEA and our values in the Gloucester region of NSW. The citation at the presentation is included here...
A joint statement addressed to energy ministers meeting at COAG by 150 concerned GPs, emergency doctors, public health physicians, paediatricians, physicians, surgeons, medical students and other health specialists.
The Anthropocene is of great significance to modern medicine. Air pollution, climate change, extreme weather events and food insecurity are now some of human health’s most pressing issues. Most days in my general practice I see a patient whose presentation has some connection to our rapidly changing ecosystem. Read full article in Medical Observer or on the DEA site (read on).
When I joined Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) some years ago, I couldn’t understand why they were silent on the topic of food. After all, even by conservative estimates, the production of the world’s food is responsible for the majority of land degradation, biodiversity loss and fresh water use, and for around one third of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Read why the silence
Australia’s doctors will meet in Newcastle, NSW, this weekend to discuss how they can protect the community from pollution, climate change impacts such as heatwaves and other environmental hazards.
In the Hunter region, community action including that of DEA has at last brought action by the state government with night time inspections to curb current dust production during night time mine work when air quality becomes even worse than daytime. Read full article.
Mr Vesey of AGL has refused the request from the Federal Government to extend the life of the Liddell power station beyond 5 years. When he said ‘‘Somebody has to be on the bleeding edge, we [AGL] are going to be the biggest emitter (of carbon dioxide] - that means we are going to need to be responsible, and take action”, he was recognising the social licence increasingly necessary for industry and was filling a role abdicated by the federal government. Now read on.
Bob Brown will speak at the iDEA conference on Saturday 14th in Newcastle and in the Newcastle Herald today he writes about closure of the Liddell power station and the contributions by DEA to the control of pollution from coal fired power stations.
The answer is COAL! In this Editorial in the Newcastle Herald, DEA is quoted extensively on the pollution from coal fired power stations in NSW and the harm to health that results. The Herald asks why the pollution licencing system suggested by DEA and supported by the NSW EPA has not been implemented.
The United Nations sets these goals not just for developing countries but for all countries including Australia. Although Australia has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, our SDG targets, particularly on health and the environment, have slipped 6 places in the last reporting year to 26th place globally. Furthermore, our overseas development aid to help others attain their goals is inadequate. DEA has made a submission to Parliament on SDGs
Dangerous fine particle emissions from Bayswater power station jumped by 69 per cent in 2017, according to new national data showing the Hunter’s biggest air polluters are releasing more toxic emissions than ever before. This Bayswater figure was dwarfed by a 179 per cent jump in PM2.5 fine particle emissions from Vales Point power station. Read DEA’s Ben Ewald’s comment in this article.
The recent proposal from legal experts and the Environmental Alliance for new environmental laws recognises that health and the environment are indivisible. It is now the task of doctors' organisations to develop their input. This is a preventative health issue above all, and needs recognition of common cause between doctors and the environmental movement. This article in Croakey explains how reform of climate change and air pollution policy can begin.
A delegation of DEA doctors (Ben Ewald, Arnagretta Hunter, Selina Lo) attended the "Better Laws for a Better Planet Symposium" hosted by the Australian Panel of Experts on Environmental Law (APEEL), IUCN Australia Committee, National Environmental Law Association, and Places You Love Alliance, on March 27, in Canberra at University House Hotel.
The proposed mining of coal in Queensland is a matter of national and international concern, demanding condemnation from Australian leaders at least of the magnitude of that they expended on sandpaper and a cricket ball. On a week that the UK banned development of a coal mine because of greenhouse emissions, Queensland quietly revived the proposal for a vast dormant mine approval at Wilton, North Queensland.
While it’s a good bet that developing such a major national initiative will, at best, be a long, slow and arduous process, it is true that (to quote Laozi): “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. What is also clear is that “business as usual” is not a viable option for the future economy, defence and health of Australia”
Australia needs an independent National Environmental Protection Agency to safeguard the environment and deliver effective climate policy, according to a new campaign launched today by a coalition of environmental, legal and medical organisations, including DEA. The initiative was launched today in Canberra and David Shearman has written this article to explain its role.
Read the full article
The federal government must establish an independent statutory authority much like the Reserve Bank to provide strong climate action based on consensus scientific and technological expertise to meet the unprecedented threats of climate change to human health and survival.
Malcolm Turnbull has accused Senator Richard Di Natale of a lack of empathy in making the connection between climate and bushfires following the late season bushfires in Victoria and NSW in recent days, saying now is not the time to “politicise” these terrible events.
The gas norflurane, most often found in asthma metered dose inhalers, is 1,430 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas. Another, apaflurane, is 3,220 times more potent. Globally, tens of millions of tons of carbon dioxide equivalent are attributable annually to these inhaler gases.
Australia has a long history of bushfire disasters. The loss of almost 70 homes in Tathra, New South Wales, and 18 homes in southwest Victoria this week has again reminded us of the risks and huge personal costs of living in a fire-prone country. The risk is increasing as fires the world over are expanding in every dimension – in their timing, with extended seasons of favourable fire weather, frequency and severity.
A recent statement by the McGowan Labor Government who plan to make WA into a "global LNG hub" is deeply concerning for the control of green house emissions. Furthermore it begs the question whether the recent WA enquiry into the risks from fracking might be used to promote the production of additional (unconventional) gas in the state. Submissions to the enquiry closed yesterday; read the DEA Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation in Western Australia 2017 Submission and media release.
Greenhouse gas emissions from developing WA’s unconventional gas resources will be about three times as much as Australia has agreed to emit under the Paris Agreement, hampering global efforts to contain climate change.
Today, the Supreme court case begins in Queensland with New Hope Coal; contesting the decision of the Land Court and the Queensland government to stop the Acland mine. This legal decision will be vital for future control of coal development. The history of this case is detailed by Queensland EDO below. A search for Acland on the DEA web site will illustrate our huge involvement over 6 years with many submissions, letters to ministers and appearances in Court by our expert witnesses. For the Land Court judgement, see also https://www.dea.org.au/reneweconomy-revelations-from-the-new-acland-coal-mine-case/
The Federal Government has produced a biodiversity conservation strategy paper which is deeply flawed in its assessments and fails to understand the urgency for action. In response, DEA has written a submission which demands action.
The National Energy Guarantee (NEG) and Turnbull Government's current energy policy have significant adverse health implications, causing deaths and illness, in Australia and globally. Health is totally ignored in their deliberations.
The consultation paper is fundamentally flawed in failing to include health considerations from air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions which have considerable costs to human health and the nation.
Australia’s fuel standards for vehicles are the lowest of the countries comprising the OECD and amongst the lowest in the G20. They cause ill health and deaths from air pollution and also contribute a large and growing proportion of our greenhouse emissions. There has to be reform
To address the health impacts of climate change - the greatest global health threat of the 21st century - national leadership and reform of governance are urgently needed.
On Monday evening ABC’s 4 Corners aired an episode ‘Weather Alert’ looking at how Australia’s changing climate is impacting people. Mounting evidence suggests our changing climate is having an impact on everything - from what we grow, eat and drink, to house prices and the cost of insurance. Doctors for the Environment Australia provided the health segment for rising temperatures also have a significant, often ignored, impact on health.