Launch of publication of Framework for a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing

The Federal Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM, MP spoke at the launch of publication of the Framework for a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing on 22 June.

Page last updated: 22 June 2017

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22 June 2017

Good morning and thank you for the introduction.

Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, traditional custodians of the land on which we meet. I also extend my respects to Elders past, present and future and to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here this morning.

I also acknowledge

    • Dr Liz Hanna, President, Climate and Health Alliance;
    • Fiona Armstrong, CHA Executive Director;
    • Senator Richard Di Natale, Leader of the Australian Greens;
    • The Hon Catherine King MP, Member for Ballarat;
    • Nobel laureate and former Australian of the Year, Professor Peter Doherty OA; and
    • Nick Horsburgh, who with his team put this report together.
I’d like to thank the Climate and Health Alliance for providing this report.

It provides a strategy framework for consideration of how the Commonwealth, states and territories can better work together and with all stakeholders to coordinate action on climate, health and wellbeing for Australia.

WHO’s warnings
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that global climate change during the past 30 years has already claimed an estimated 150,000 lives a year.

WHO links climate change to many health conditions.

It has reported that extreme high air temperatures contribute directly to deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory disease, particularly among elderly people.

For example, the WHO says high temperatures also raise ozone and other pollutants in the air that aggravate cardiovascular and respiratory disease.

While pollen and other aeroallergen levels in extreme heat can trigger asthma, which affects around 300 million people worldwide.

Australia’s capability
We have a world leading health system that manages unavoidable risks, reduces people’s susceptibility to illness, and builds resilience.

Nevertheless, in matters of health and climate change we must remain vigilant by maintaining and improving the resilience of our national health care system.

As one example the Medical Research Future Fund will double the Government’s investment in medical and health research. The first $65.9 million of the Fund is being invested in clinical trials, translational research and global health security. This includes global epidemic preparedness and antimicrobial resistance.

Action to address climate change
Australia has signed and ratified the Paris Agreement on 9 November 2016. This reaffirms our strong commitment to effective and coordinated international action on climate change.

Australia’s target of a 26 to 28 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 on 2005 levels — is strong and responsible. This target represents a 50-52 per cent reduction in emissions per person between 2005 and 2030.

We continue to carefully manage the shift to a low emissions economy, cutting emissions while safeguarding our priorities of energy security and energy affordability.

We successfully beat our first Kyoto target by 128 million tonnes and we are on track to meet and beat our 2020 target of 5 per cent below year 2000 emission levels by 224 million tonnes.

The $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund has contracted 189 million tonnes of emissions reductions at an average price of $11.83 per tonne.

This is the largest ever emissions reduction commitment by Australian businesses and landholders.

We are doing this through better land use management, reduced waste activities, reafforestation and improving energy efficiency.

And the Government has established the $200 million Clean Energy Innovation Fund to support early stage and emerging clean energy technologies.

Improving Coordination between Commonwealth, states and territories
Commonwealth, states and territories are jointly responsible for our overall health system.

For example, the Commonwealth Government assumes overall responsibility for the national perspective on health and climate change.

We share responsibility for health services with state and territory governments.

Actions to prepare for and manage the health effects of climate change are managed by state and territory governments as operators of our public hospitals.

As one example increased capacity at public hospitals and emergency service responses during extreme weather events.

Insights into ways in which the Commonwealth, states and territories can better coordinate our multiple interests and endeavours are important.

Building resilience to climate change
Australia’s National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy, which the Government released in 2015, recognises that all governments, businesses, households and communities all have different, but important, roles in managing climate risks.

The Australian Government plays its part by:
    • providing climate change science and adaptation information;
    • good management of assets and services; and by
    • coordinating adaptation to climate change at a national level.
Preparedness and responses
At a national level we manage programs to address many health conditions, including those that may be prone to climate change.

They are managed on a relatively short timeframe, and can be scaled up or down to meet any long-term changes in prevalence.

And Australia maintains a comprehensive surveillance system to monitor changes in incidence and trends of communicable diseases, including changes that may be due to climate change.

Emergency response arrangements
Australia has well established emergency response arrangements in place.

These include ongoing management of key environmental risks and hazards, such as bush fires and cyclones.

Australia uses an ‘all agencies, all hazards’ approach based on prevention, preparedness, response and recovery from disasters and may task Australian Government agencies to deploy resources during an emergency.

For example:
The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) provides a wide range of forecast and warning services.

It works closely with state, territory and international emergency services in all aspects of disaster mitigation planning, preparation, response and recovery.

Australia maintains a range of support services, which are made available for use in national responses to public health emergencies, including extreme weather events, through the National Health Emergency Management Standing Committee, which provides advice on national approaches to prepare for and respond to the health impacts of emergencies.

And we acknowledge the extensive consultation with health care and policy stakeholders in drawing up this report.

The independent voice of this strategy framework adds value to policy discussions and I thank all those involved in preparing this report.

Thank you.
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