The Albanese Government has committed $3.4 million in its 2022-23 Federal Budget to fund Australia’s first National Health and Climate Strategy and a National Health Sustainability and Climate Unit to better prepare the health system for the challenges of climate change.
With more frequent and severe weather events, extreme temperatures and poor air quality, climate change presents a serious physical and mental health challenge for Australians. The World Health Organization has described climate change as the greatest threat to global health this century.
With unique and far-reaching health and wellbeing challenges already occurring in Australia, it is essential that we are better prepared for future implications.
The new unit will be located within the Department of Health and Aged Care and will work to ensure all Australians have access to a health system that can identify and adapt to the challenges presented by climate change. This could include increased demand for services or an increase in specific conditions arising from environmental changes.
The unit will also be tasked with leading national efforts to reduce emissions in the health sector, which contributes approximately 7% to Australia’s emissions.
It is expected that Australia will see more deaths and injury from extreme weather events, the increased spread of vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis, more instances food and water insecurity, and a greater toll on our mental health.
The Strategy will be developed in consultation with states and territories, peak bodies and other non-government organisations.
QUOTES ATTRIBUTABLE TO ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE
GED KEARNEY MP
“We are already seeing the cost of climate change on people’s health, with communities around the nation devastated by floods, fires, droughts and heatwaves. The health impacts of these events will only intensify and we need to be ready to deal with it.”
“Our health system is already stretched and under pressure. We need a strategy so we can respond to the increased demand for services, new climate-related health issues, and the impacts of climate change on our health workforce.
“As well as adapting to the new challenges of climate-related health issues, it’s important that our health system is included as part of the climate solution by reducing its own carbon footprint.”