Ten medical colleges, representing more than 100,000 doctors write to political leaders calling for a climate ready and climate friendly healthcare system

24 March 2022

To Australia’s federal political leaders,

Climate change is a major risk to our healthcare system.

We are a broad group of doctors and physicians. We’re seeing the impacts of climate change on health first-hand, supporting our communities in the aftermath of horrific bushfires and devastating floods. We’re also seeing the impacts of extreme heat, particularly on older people. Paediatricians and obstetricians are concerned about how climate change will affect the lives of their young patients as they grow. GPs and psychiatrists are witnessing the mental health impacts of climate change and extreme weather events on people of all ages. And specialist physicians across the country are bracing for an onslaught of illness caused by the impacts of climate change. The recent floods in NSW and Queensland, unprecedented in magnitude in living memory, demonstrate why we must act now to reduce the devastating impacts of severe weather events.

We are calling on federal political leaders to commit to action to build the resilience of our healthcare system to the impacts of climate change. At the same time, we want to play our part in the solutions. We’re advocating for support to ensure the healthcare system can reduce its own climate footprint.

We need a healthcare system that is both climate ready and climate friendly.

In the lead up to the Australian Federal Election, we are calling on all parties and candidates to commit to ensuring our healthcare system is:

Climate ready

  1. Create and fund a National Climate Change and Health Strategy that will enable our healthcare system to build climate resilience, including:

    a. development of climate risk and vulnerability assessments and locally led disaster planning for the healthcare system; acknowledging that rural and remote communities are at particular risk;

    b. adaptation and resilience plans which acknowledge, support, and are guided by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership;

    c. equipping health and medical professionals with information, tools and resources to support them to anticipate, prepare for and respond to climate risks;

    d. establishment of a surge health and medical workforce for deployment in response to extreme weather events;

    e. being informed by the experience of COVID-19 and the limitations and vulnerabilities of the health system to significant shocks.

  2. Create and fund a National Climate Change and Health Sustainability Unit to oversee the implementation of the Strategy.
  3. Invest in a national Climate Change and Health Resilience Research Fund to identify resilience strategies suited to our health system.

Climate friendly

  1. Establish a Climate Friendly Health System Innovation Fund to provide grants to local health services for emissions reduction and sustainability initiatives.
  2. Include a plan for equitably decarbonising healthcare, to achieve net zero emissions in healthcare by 2040 in a funded National Climate Change and Health Strategy.

In developing climate change adaptation and resilience plans, we must learn from First Peoples who have built up thousands of years of accumulated knowledge on how to live sustainably in the unique Australian landscape. We must draw on that now to inform and guide our future plans. Indigenous cultural knowledge and leadership will strengthen our response to climate change and avoid harmful unintended consequences on communities that face existing health inequities.

In addition, we join many others, including the business community, farmers and community groups, in calling for an urgent transition to net-zero emissions across all economic sectors to address the underlying causes of climate change, with support to affected communities.


Professor John Wilson AM
President, The Royal Australasian College of Physicians

Dr Clare Skinner
President, Australasian College for Emergency Medicine

Dr Mark Fulcher
President, Australasian College of Sport and Exercise Physicians

Dr Vanessa Beavis
President, Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists

Dr Karen Price
President, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners

Dr Mary Pinder
President, The College of Intensive Care Medicine of Australia and New Zealand

Dr Sally Langley
President, The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons

Dr Benjamin Bopp
President, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Professor Nitin Verma AM
President, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists

Associate Professor Vinay Lakra
President, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists

Quotes attributable to RACP President and Respiratory Physician, Professor John WIlson:
"This open letter, signed by medical colleges representing over 100,000 doctors - sends a clear message to our leaders that climate change is a health crisis that we must address urgently. 
"Climate change is already having a significant impact on the Australian healthcare system. 
"We urgently need action from our federal political leaders to address climate change, and prepare our healthcare systems for the inevitable impacts of it. 

“Action from the international community on climate change and the recent IPCC report drive home the need for us to take stronger action here in Australia."

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