The Climate and Health Alliance this week released its scorecard ahead of the 2 July election, rating the major parties and media poorly for a lack of focus and debate on the potentially catastrophic risks of climate change to health.
Dr Elizabeth Haworth and Fiona Armstrong outline its concerns below.
See also the recent call by Professor Fiona Stanley on all candidates from the major parties to respond to four key measures to work against the devastating impacts of climate change.
And Croakey is compiling a list of ‘scorecards’ on the major party promises and policies relating to health to help inform your votes.
Dr Elizabeth Haworth and Fiona Armstrong write:
If you are looking for guidance from the main political parties (other than the Greens) on how to respond to climate change this federal election, you will be disappointed. And if you are at all concerned about the need to limit the health risks of climate change with effective climate mitigation and adaptation policies, even more so.
An analysis of the policies of the main Australian political parties (Liberals, Nationals, ALP, and Greens) and their response to a survey from the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) shows an appalling ignorance when it comes to the most profound threat facing humanity today.
Neither of the major parties have credible climate change policies (i.e. consistent with Australia meeting its commitments under the Paris Agreement, and assuming its fair share of the global task to cut emissions).
The rather naïve approach of the ALP seems to suggest they think almost all emissions reductions can be achieved through a shift to renewable energy.
The Liberal and National parties appear to remain steadfastly (deliberately?) deluded about the urgency of the response required, and the significance of national leadership, especially when it comes to the duty of care governments owe their citizens in protecting them from serious threats which individuals are alone incapable of addressing.
Despite the strong evidence that many important climate mitigation strategies (e.g. phasing out coal, shifting to active and public transport, electrifying car fleets, increasing the proportion of plants in our diets) also deliver substantial health, environmental and economic co-benefits, apart from The Greens, there isn’t another political party in Australia paying attention.
The Federal Election 2016 Scorecard from the Climate and Health Alliance assesses the commitment of political parties to seven key policies relevant to climate change and health.
– plans for a low carbon and climate resilient health care system
– support for a national climate and health strategy
– stronger air pollution laws
– stronger emissions reduction targets
– expansion of the renewable energy targets
– no further development of coal and gas resources
– planned transition to low carbon occupations for workers in emission intensive industries
As above, neither of the two major political parties have any substantive policies to reduce the risks to the health of the Australian community from climate change. They ignore the warning from highly reputable international medical journals that climate change is already a public health emergency (see links at the bottom of the post).
The Climate and Health Alliance has been leading the advocacy on this issue in Australia since 2010, and in 2015 led a project to conduct a global survey of national climate change and health plans. The results confirm Australia lags behind comparable countries in responding to the health impacts of climate change.
There is hope however. The Paris agreement, adopted on 12 December 2015, given its recognition of health as a driver for mitigation, and right to health of individuals, should help create international pressure for countries to acknowledge climate action as a major global public health policy, and take steps to respond.
The Paris Agreement obliges countries to strive to limit global warming to 1.5°C through “ambitious and early action”, to commit to climate financing, and to strengthen adaptation.
At current status, Australia cannot hope to achieve its commitment at the Paris COP. So stronger commitments will be required, and expected, from major trading partners, from the international community, and from nations whose populations are forced to flee.
The UN process will ensure monitoring and revision of national contributions every five years, but in addition to this, the health community has instituted its own process of evaluating commitments to climate and health policy every two years. Initiated following the landmark 2015 Lancet Health and Climate Commission, Countdown to 2030 will produce an assessment of country responses on climate change and health every two years.
Australian governments will increasingly find there is nowhere to hide.
Next month the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Government of France will jointly host the Second Global Conference on Health and Climate: “Building Healthier Societies through implementation of the Paris Agreement”.
As Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organisation informed us at the 2015 UNFCCC, COP21:
“A ruined planet cannot sustain human lives in good health. A healthy planet and healthy people are two sides of the same coin.”
Achieving this however requires all of us.
As Naomi Klein says in her 2015 book and film, ‘This Changes Everything’: “to change everything, we need everyone.”
CAHA is developing a campaign to secure the development of a national Climate, Health and Wellbeing Strategy, and mobilising health professionals and organisations to support this.
You can support this effort by using the CAHA Scorecard to inform your vote on 2 July, or we all face a much harder task to achieve effective action on climate change, post-election. We urge you to keep Dr Chan’s advice in mind.
The Lancet, Commission on Health and Climate Change, 2015. Available at: http://www.thelancet.com/ commissions/climate-change
British Medical Journal, Climate change is a health emergency, Editorial, 03 April 2014. Available at: http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g2546
Climate Change Will Affect Public Health – A Call to Action. Editorial. American Journal of Public Health. Available at http://www.ajpmonline.org/content/infoformedia.