Australia’s First National Health and Climate Strategy
February 11, 2024
Health and Climate, Recognised Together
Australia’s unveiling of its first National Health and Climate Strategy at the end of 2023, marks a pivotal moment for the nation’s approach to climate change and its impacts on health. This initiative, announced at COP28 in Dubai, received widespread acclaim from the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) and other health advocacy groups, representing a significant step forward in the intersection of climate policy and health management. The strategy’s launch has been met with positive feedback across various media platforms, highlighting its potential to address the broad and insidious health impacts of climate change witnessed within communities, hospitals, and health facilities across Australia.
The development and launch of the National Health and Climate Strategy are the result of concerted efforts by key Australian government figures and health organisations. Spearheaded by the Hon Ged Kearney MP, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, and Senator the Hon Jenny McAllister, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy, the strategy is the culmination of extensive consultations and collaborations. These efforts were aimed at ensuring Australia’s health system is robust enough to meet the challenges posed by climate change, such as increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and the resulting health impacts.
The Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA), representing over 100 health organisations and 200 individual health professionals, has been a vocal advocate for such a national plan. The formulation of Australia’s National Health and Climate Strategy was significantly enriched by a comprehensive consultation process, engaging a wide array of perspectives across the nation. The Australian Government’s Department of Health and Aged Care spearheaded this initiative, conducting an extensive series of stakeholder engagement activities. These included both face-to-face and online consultation workshops, as well as Ministerial roundtables, ensuring a broad and inclusive approach to gathering insights. In total, the consultation phase saw 270 submissions from diverse stakeholders, with over 300 individuals participating in workshops. The consultation spanned across the country, with 4 virtual workshops specifically catering to First Nations communities, the aged care sector, and the primary care sector, alongside 12 face-to-face workshops in major cities including Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Hobart. This collaborative effort highlighted the importance of integrating diverse views, ideas, and experiences in shaping a strategy that addresses the multifaceted challenges of health and climate change in Australia. Overall, the decade-long advocacy underscores the critical need for a cohesive strategy that safeguards the health and wellbeing of Australians against climate change threats.
The Health and Climate Strategy
The National Health and Climate Strategy of Australia is designed around four critical objectives, each serving a distinct yet interconnected function to address the challenges posed by climate change to health and wellbeing.
Objective 1: Health System Resilience
The first objective aims to fortify the health system’s resilience against climate change. By building a climate-resilient health infrastructure, the strategy seeks to enhance the system’s capacity to safeguard and promote the health and wellbeing of the population amidst the evolving impacts of climate change. It involves informing and guiding the health system in implementing protective measures and adapting to climate-induced health challenges, ensuring the continuity and effectiveness of health services in changing environmental conditions.
Objective 2: Health System Decarbonisation
The second objective focuses on transforming the Australian health system into a sustainable, high-quality, net-zero emissions entity. Recognizing the health sector’s role in contributing to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions, the strategy outlines a plan for decarbonisation. This plan is informed by a thorough assessment of the health system’s emissions footprint, alongside the integration of existing strategies and plans from state and territory levels. The aim is to reduce the carbon footprint of healthcare delivery, making it more sustainable.
Objective 3: International Collaboration
Acknowledging that climate change and health are global issues requiring international cooperation, the third objective promotes collaboration beyond Australia’s borders. The strategy seeks to foster sustainable, climate-resilient health systems and communities through international partnerships. It aims to share knowledge, develop international standards, and support neighbouring countries in their efforts to address the health impacts of climate change, enhancing global health security and resilience.
Objective 4: Health in All Policies
The final objective advocates for a holistic approach to health and climate policy, supporting the creation of healthy, climate-resilient, and sustainable communities. By adopting a Health in All Policies (HiAP) approach, the strategy encourages whole-of-government action that recognizes the interlinkages between health and climate outcomes. It promotes the integration of health considerations into policy making across all sectors, highlighting the health co-benefits of emissions reduction and climate adaptation actions beyond the healthcare system itself.
Together, these objectives outline a comprehensive framework for the National Health and Climate Strategy, addressing both the direct and indirect impacts of climate change on health. The strategy’s multifaceted approach aims to ensure a sustainable, resilient health system capable of withstanding the challenges posed by climate change, while also contributing to broader societal and environmental goals.
The Future of Our Healthcare
Australia’s National Health and Climate Strategy signifies a monumental shift towards a conscious and integrated approach to combating climate change and its multifaceted impacts on health. By intertwining the principles of health equity, planetary health, First Nations leadership, population health, and evidence-informed policymaking, the strategy lays a solid foundation for a resilient, sustainable future. This strategic blueprint not only addresses the immediate health challenges posed by climate change but also sets a clear path for reducing the healthcare sector’s carbon footprint, underscoring Australia’s commitment to a net-zero emissions future.
The strategy’s comprehensive approach, emphasising collaboration, prevention, and inclusivity, positions Australia as a proactive participant in the global effort to mitigate climate change. It reaffirms the country’s commitment to building healthy, climate-resilient communities and a sustainable health system, aligning with the global imperative to address climate change. Through this strategy, the healthcare community and the public more broadly are able to look forward to a more sustainable world for current and future generations.
Read more or download the complete strategy here: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/national-health-and-climate-strategy?language=en