MEDIA RELEASE 22th November 2010

PC study into climate policy must also consider health costs

The Climate and Health Alliance has urged the Australian Government to include consideration of the economic benefits arising from avoided ill health in the terms of reference for the Productivity Commission study into climate policy economics announced last week.

“The Climate and Health Alliance welcomes the Government’s decision to ask the Productivity Commission to compare the impact of international policies to address climate change,” CAHA Spokesperson Fiona Armstrong said.

“We urge the Government and the Commission to not overlook the important and significant impacts on health sector costs when ill health is avoided due to strong emissions reduction policies.”

CAHA points to a recent study from Europe which demonstrates that substantial health and economic benefits would arise from strong targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The report, Acting Now for Better Health, by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and Health Care Without Harm Europe (HCWH E), quantifies the benefits for people’s health, health sector budgets and productivity that are possible from the 30% by 2020 emissions reduction target being considered in Europe.

The report reveals that health sector savings from reduced air pollution alone would be equivalent to 2/3 of the costs of implementing the requisite climate policies. Accrued health benefits to the European Union (from avoided ill health and productivity) would be worth more than €80 billion/year.

“This report shows that, even using conservative estimates of health sector savings, early implementation of effective climate policies to achieve strong emissions reductions can deliver better outcomes for human health, health care budgets and productivity,” Ms Armstrong said.

The Climate and Health Alliance is urging the Government to include consideration of these benefits, as well as the health sector costs of climate policy inaction, in the terms of reference for the Productivity Commission study.
Media release 15th November 2010

A price on carbon is good for our health

Delegates from the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) will join representatives from the Australian Conservation Foundation, The Climate Project, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and Union Climate Connectors in a visit to Parliament House today to urge parliamentarians to support a price on carbon.

The delegation will meet with around 50 parliamentarians to convey their support for legislating for a price on carbon and to encourage MPs and Senators to initiate and support action on climate change as essential to the health and wellbeing of all Australians.

CAHA Spokesperson Fiona Armstrong said the Alliance would be encouraging parliamentarians to heed the evidence that climate change poses significant risks to human health, and that actions to reduce emissions can improve, even promote health.1

“The health effects of climate change are currently being ignored in the debate on climate change and in the development of policy,” Ms Armstrong said.

“Understanding the health implications of climate change is a vital aspect of communicating climate risk.” Ms Armstrong said, “If climate change is presented as a health issue, it is much more likely to be considered an issue of personal significance.”2

“Strong emissions reductions will not only reduce the risks to human health from climate change, but will reduce health care costs and improve health outcomes,” Ms Armstrong said.

CAHA is calling for a national committment to a comprehensive suite of policies and strategies that will achieve strong emissions reductions to reduce current and future negative health impacts and risks associated with increasing global temperature, sea level rise, and food and water insecurity.

“A price on carbon that reflects the climate and health costs associated with greenhouse gas emissions is an important and necessary part of this,” Ms Armstrong said.

The Climate and Health Alliance was established in August 2010. It is an alliance of health care stakeholders which includes health care professionals from a range of disciplines, health care service providers, institutions, academics, researchers, and health care consumers across Australia who wish to see the risk to human health from climate change addressed through prompt policy action.

Media release 15th September 2010

Healthy benefits from strong action on climate

The Climate and Health Alliance today welcomed a new report from the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and Health Care Without Harm Europe (HCWH E) which demonstrates the very substantial health and economic benefits of strong targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The report quantifies the climate and health benefits on people’s health, health sector budgets and productivity gains possible from the 30% emissions reduction target being considered in Europe.

It reveals the higher the target, the better the outcome for human health, health care budgets and productivity.

CAHA spokesperson Fiona Armstrong said the compelling evidence of the huge boost to public health from strong climate policy was an important message for the new Gillard government that the previous government’s 5% emission reductions target was manifestly inadequate.

“This is important work from our international counterparts highlighting the critical link between climate and health policy, and demonstrating that action on climate change is not only vital for human health and wellbeing but it is necessary to ensure the viability of the health care sector and is central to economic productivity,” Ms Armstrong said.

“It is time for the Australian Parliament to discuss the setting of emissions reduction targets that are consistent with science of climate change and to establish mechanisms that will achieve them in order to protect human health.”

Ms Armstrong said this would mean targets need to be much higher than those discussed in the previous parliament.

“The recommendation of leading scientists is for industrialised countries, including Australia, to cut emissions by 40% of 1990 levels by 2020 in order to prevent the worst impacts of climate change - not 5% below 2000 levels by 2020.”

“CAHA calls on the Australian parliament to work together to commit to a strong target for emissions reductions and for this to be made law in this term of government, to ensure our population can benefit from the health gains from cleaner fuels, better transport, and a healthier diet that are all associated with lowering greenhouse emissions.”

The Acting Now for Better Health report is available at:

Media release 19th August 2010

Guide to boost climate literacy welcomed – clearly needed in Canberra

The Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) has welcomed the release of a guide on the science of climate change this week by the Australian Academy of Science, produced by leading climate change scientists.

“The Alliance recognises that despite the overwhelming scientific and observed evidence of climate change there is a poor level of literacy on the science of climate change in the Australian community,” CAHA spokesperson, Fiona Armstrong said.

This is a cause of concern to the newly formed alliance of health sector groups, who are aware of the profound risks and consequences of climate change to the health of the Australian and global population.

The alliance has formed as a way for the health sector to advocate for urgent policy action on climate change and to raise awareness within the sector about the implications of unmitigated global warming.

Decades of research has now informed thousands of reports by august scientific bodies, including Australia’s CSIRO, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the US National Academy of Sciences, and the Tyndall Centre in the UK which all draw the same conclusions: left unchecked, global warming poses grave risks to human health and biodiversity, and left unchecked, threatens the future of human civilisation.

The alliance has also noted recent research from the University of Queensland which demonstrates there are poor levels of climate literacy among many politicians, with understanding considerably varied between the political parties.

These results showed 98% of Greens politicians understood the science of climate change, compared to 89% of Labor politicians and just 38% of Coalition politicians.

“The poor understanding of climate change among many politicians should be a matter of grave concern to voters in this Saturday’s federal election,” Ms Armstrong said.

“The decision to act on climate change, or not to act, which is itself a decision, being made by members of the Australian parliament has profound implications for human health and well-being,” Ms Armstrong said. “That so many of those decision makers are failing to inform themselves of the underlying science, or are choosing to ignore it, is alarming and should be carefully considered in voter’s decisions about their choice of candidates in this Saturday’s federal election.”

“The Australian community is already feeling the effects of climate change from bushfires, heatwaves, droughts, floods and storms,” Ms Armstrong said. “These will increase in frequency and severity with further global warming. The health sector is already being forced to confront the associated physical and mental health problems. CAHA urges our political leaders to commit to strong policy action on climate change to protect human health before we reach irreversible climate tipping points, beyond which our actions may be futile.”

The Australian Academy of Science guide reiterates what is already widely known and accepted about the role of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere: that increasing levels of CO2, driven primarily by human activity, is causing higher mean global surface temperatures. It reiterates that atmospheric CO2 is now at the highest level seen in the past 800,000 years. It acknowledges that this increase is already harmful to humans and the ecosystems on which humans depend. It also reiterates that unless global emissions peak within the next decade, the climate may warm beyond the 2°C guardrail’, widely considered to be point beyond which the majority of people and species will be adversely affected and beyond the adaptive capacity of many societies and species.

Media release 10th August 2010

Alliance supports climate and health taskforce proposal

The Climate and Health Alliance has welcomed the proposal by the Victorian Greens at their campaign launch this week to establish a taskforce to tackle the impact of climate change on health.

The Alliance, launched last week at a national meeting of health leaders in Melbourne, is a coalition of groups and individuals in the health sector advocating for urgent policy action on climate change as a threat to human health.

Spokesperson for the Alliance, Fiona Armstrong, said a substantial body of national and international research demonstrates climate change poses significant threats to health from changing disease patterns, food and water insecurity, and deaths and injuries from severe weather events.

The report by international medical journal, The Lancet, in 2009 called for urgent action on climate change to protect public health. This has been acknowledged in the National Climate Change Adaptation Framework but Australia is yet to develop a national plan that acknowledges or seeks to address the risks posed to human health from climate change.

“We need a national plan that outlines how Australia will approach its share of the global responsibility to reduce emissions – this must include a plan to protect the community from further health risks from climate change. The establishment of a national taskforce on climate and health would be a good first step to developing this plan.”

In its 2009 report, ‘Protecting health from climate change', the World Health Organisation called for human health to be at the heart of all environment and development decisions. This included a reminder that human health depends on the natural environment not only for the ‘goods and services’ it provides but that it underpins all economic activity, and life itself.

“The health of the community is already at risk from climate change,” Ms Armstrong said. “This risk will continue to grow if strong action is not taken to reduce emissions and halt the increase in atmospheric pollution that is causing global temperature rises and driving climate change right now.”

The Alliance emphasised that policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have the potential to bring important public health benefits.

“Actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will not only reduce climate risk and environmental harm, but will also improve health outcomes and reduce health costs.”

Media release 4th August 2010

A new prescription needed for a safe climate

Health leaders meeting in Melbourne today diagnosed urgent action on climate change as needed to safeguard the community’s health.

The meeting over 40 health sector leaders from across Australia has prompted the formation of the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) to advocate for urgent policy action on climate change to reduce the very significant threats posed to human health.

Internationally respected medical journal The Lancet said last year: “Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.”

Communities in Australia are already experiencing the physical and mental health effects from an increase in bushfires, heatwaves, severe storms, and drought. All of these events are expected to occur with increasing frequency and severity with rapid climate change.

Spokesperson for the Climate and Health Alliance, Fiona Armstrong, said the alliance was calling for urgent emissions reductions to protect health.

“As we approach the federal election, CAHA calls on all our political leaders to plan and deliver effective policy to reduce emissions to protect the health of the community now and in the future,” Ms Armstrong said.

“Scientists are warning us we may have only this decade to act to avoid catastrophic runaway climate change. We urge our governments to act on this advice. As health professionals we value science and its inclusion in the development of public policy and we expect our governments to do the same.”

Fiona Armstrong said CAHA took the view that if governments were not prepared to take a leadership role, then civil society must respond.

“Many politicians appear to believe that it is possible to delay action on climate change. The reality is that governments have now been procrastinating for decades. Time is running out. Our emissions to date mean we already face a 2C global average temperature rise even if we reduce emissions to zero very quickly. This is not something we can bury our heads in the sand about as a community any longer. Even the 0.8C rise we have had already is adversely impacting on natural ecosystems and further rises will bring a wave of extinctions, and may well lead to irreversible tipping points in the decline of major earth systems. Action to dramatically reduce emissions is needed now.”

There are strong economic, environmental, social and health and benefits for countries who took the lead in lowering emissions, Ms Armstrong said.

“Early action now will boost our international competitiveness, improve our energy security and help develop healthier and more connected communities. There are also many health gains possible from climate action. Cutting pollution from burning fossil fuels has important climate and health benefits, and shifting to active and public transport can help reduce chronic health problems such as obesity, osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes.”

Media release 4th August 2010

Health care leaders meet in Melbourne on climate

Health care leaders will meet in Melbourne today to discuss the establishment of a health sector alliance to advocate for urgent action on climate change.

The meeting is hosted by the Australian Psychological Society and supported by founding members: the Australian Women’s Health Network; Doctors for the Environment Australia; and the Public Health Association of Australia.

Fiona Armstrong, convenor of the meeting, said: “Increasing concern in the sector about the significant and profound human health and ecological consequences associated with unmitigated climate change has prompted today’s meeting of over 40 organisations and individuals to discuss a collective position.”

The alliance will represent stakeholders in the health care sector who wish to see climate change addressed through urgent policy action.

The membership of the Alliance is expected to cover a broad cross section of the sector including health care professionals from all disciplines, health care service providers, institutions, academics, researchers, and consumers.

The alliance is expected to advocate for strong emissions reductions and drawdown of excess CO2, healthy power generation, healthy transport and urban planning, sustainable healthy agricultural systems, improvements to land use, and protection and conservation of water supply.

Ms Armstrong said it was hoped the alliance could contribute to the development and implementation of evidence based public policy to protect the community from the adverse consequences of climate change.

"It is simply inexcusable for the major parties to be going to a federal election without policies to significantly reduce emissions. The science suggests we have just one decade to dramatically cut emissions if we are to have any hope of avoiding catastrophic, runaway climate change. As the 15th largest emitter in the world, Australia has a responsibility to act to rapidly reduce our very high per capita emissions. In particular we should be moving away from coal to a clean renewable energy supply system to reduce climate risk, improve population health, and ensure future energy security.”

Details regarding membership and agreed priorities of the alliance will be announced following the meeting.