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Promoting sustainable healthcare

Guided by the principle, 'first do no harm' it is beholden on the healthcare sector to be part of the solution and urgently 'get its own house in order'

The carbon footprint of Australia’s healthcare sector is estimated at over 7% of Australia’s total emissions. While every sector needs to play its part to limit global warming and environmental degradation, the healthcare sector has an added responsibility (and opportunity) to lead mitigation of emissions and environmental impacts.

Of health care’s 7% contribution to Australian carbon emissions, hospitals are responsible for 44%, pharmaceuticals 19%, capital expenditure 8%, community and public health 6% and general practice 4%. Beyond carbon emissions, healthcare is a significant contributor to waste products and natural resource consumption, threatening our present and future health.

Advocating for sustainable health care

Doctors for the Environment Australia has been working for over a decade to address healthcare sector’s carbon footprint and environmental impact and to highlight the added health and financial co-benefits of healthcare sector action.

We advocated strongly for a National Health and Climate Strategy and the accompanying National Health Sustainability and Climate Unit and have been closely involved in the subsequent strategy and formation. As such we welcomed the formation of National Health and Climate Strategy as an an important whole-of-government plan to protect the health of Australians.

We have a memorandum of understanding with the Australian Medical Association, where we agree to work together for zero emissions in Australian health care.

  • We agree that fundamental to mitigation is the requirement for national emissions reductions aligned to science-based targets.
  • We will work to help achieve this by advocating for and supporting a transition to an environmentally sustainable healthcare sector. This includes the success of the National Health Sustainability and Climate Unit, equipping current and future doctors with the knowledge to provide sustainable healthcare, and promoting environmentally sustainable changes of practice for healthcare organisations and facilities.
  • We will advocate for improved understanding and planning of the health impacts of climate change, including influencing the direction of the National Health and Climate Strategy, and improved data collection and research relating to healthcare’s environmental impact and the health impacts of climate change.
  • We will work to improve public understanding about the human health benefits of a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, with support for reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions on health grounds.
  • We will work to support the trusted voices of doctors and the wider health system to advocate for action on climate change, as we are often on the front line, treating patients who have been affected by extreme weather events.

Net Zero Carbon Emissions for the Australian Healthcare Sector - our report and organisations that have endorsed healthcare emission reduction targets of 80% by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2040.

GreenCollege Guidelines

DEA and the AMA have developed the GreenCollege Guidelines document for medial colleges, specialities, societies, councils and associations to lead by example through incorporating changes to operations that will assist in transforming the healthcare sector to net zero emissions. Supporting organisations can be found here.

Australia’s leading doctors call on all Australian governments and the healthcare sector to prioritise climate mitigation and adaptation policies to protect the health of present and future generations.

The Australian Medical Association and Doctors for the Environment Australia’s annual webinar Australia’s doctors – driving action on climate change brings sustainability experts and the medical colleges together, to report on activities underway across the medical profession to embed sustainability and reduce emissions in health care.

The webinar represents a deep dive into sustainability where we hear from our Chief Medical Officer, Prof Paul Kelly who highlights the work of the National Health, Sustainability and Climate Unit. He is joined by the AMA president, Prof Steve Robson, DEA's Chair Dr John Van Der Kallen, DEA's Sustainability group co-chair Dr Eugenie Kayak and Dr Kate Charlesworth senior advisor of the Climate Risk & Net Zero Unit at NSW Health.

Delegates from multiple medical colleges outline the sustainability work within their speciality. The human health costs of global heating are rapidly rising, with ever increasing morbidity and mortality associated with heat waves, extreme weather events and other climate health impacts, both in Australia and across the globe. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to renewable energy sources will have immediate health benefits through reducing pollution and many illnesses, as well as mitigating against future health impacts of climate change.

The 2023 AMA-DEA webinar presents brief updates on key activities by Australia's medical colleges in relation to climate change and sustainability and how each speciality will be specifically impacted by climate change. We aim to showcase the good work underway by the medical colleges in climate health and sustainability. The webinar is intended to create a forum for collaboration and accountability to ensure we are taking practical steps towards reducing our emissions across the health sector.


The 2022 Webinar: Climate Change and Sustainability: Leadership and Action From Australian Doctors 2 

Our second webinar, facilitated by Dr Stephen Robson (AMA President) and Dr John Van Der Kallen (DEA chair) provided an update from medical colleges, with keynotes by Minister Mark Butler, Prof Nick Talley, Alexandra Barrett.

The 2021 Webinar: Climate Change and Sustainability: Leadership and Action from Australian Doctors. 

The first of our annual webinars where 13 medical colleges showcased the actions, and Dr Nick Watts (Chief Sustainability Officer at NHS) and Prof Mark Howden (Director, ANU Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions and Vice Chair, IPCC) along with Dr Eugenie Kayak (DEA) gave brief keynote presentations.

The webinar was moderated by Dr Omar Khorshid (AMA President) and Dr John Van De Kallen (DEA Chair).



To see how Doctors for the Environment Australia is providing interdisciplinary clinical education resources on the health effects of climate change to medical professionals go to our Medical Education page.