RACP urges Federal Government not to rush environmental changes before report is released

November 13, 2020

The RACP is urging the Federal Government not to rush changes to environmental law to allow time for reforms to adequately consider and protect the health of Australians.

RACP spokesperson and public health physician, Associate Professor Linda Selvey says “This year’s extreme weather demonstrates the undeniable impact climate change is having on the environment, its ecosystems and ultimately on human health. The last Australian bushfire season was a horrific example of where climate change and its impact on the environment has had significant short term and long-term impacts on human health.”

The call comes as the Australian Government is attempting to rush through changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 – Australia’s key piece of environmental law before the final report of the Review has been released; and before development of clear, legally enforceable National Environmental Standards and assurance framework.

The EPBC Act Review has noted the impact of the environment on health but hasn’t made recommendations that would protect human health in the face of climate change and environmental degradation.

The RACP has written to the Act’s Independent Reviewer, Professor Graeme Samuel AC to call for the Review to address this link between the environment and human health and to call for health experts to be included in institutions that develop and deliver environmental laws.

“There needs to be a stronger focus on the link between the environment and health in the EPBC Act and for health impacts of climate change to be addressed in law with enforceable remedies. The future repercussions for health will be serious if we don’t use all the tools available, including environmental regulation.

“We urge the Government not to go ahead with any environmental law changes until the Review’s final report is released. We look forward to seeing a greater recognition of health in the EPBC Act Review’s final report.

“This is why we are asking for a guarantee from the Federal Government that health experts from a range of disciplines will be involved upfront in the development of environmental law reforms as well as in health impact assessments and other processes relating to approvals where the health of Australians is at stake.

“Human health must become a key priority when considering these laws and making changes – that’s why these laws can’t be rushed and why we need health experts involved as well.”

The RACP is part of a growing number of health groups who are calling for a national strategy on climate change and health that reflects the relationship between the environment and the health of Australians - so that we can effectively protect both.

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