Climate Change and Health

Action on climate change represents an opportunity to both reduce harms and risks of climate change and improve health outcomes across Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand and the world.

“Climate change is the greatest global health threat facing the world in the 21st century, but it is also the greatest opportunity to redefine the social and environmental determinants of health”

The Lancet Commission Report on Climate Change and Health

Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, changing vector-borne disease patterns, and threatens to worsen food and water shortages. Health impacts such as respiratory illness from bushfire smoke and heat stress are already happening. Without urgent action, climate change will continue to have serious and worsening consequences for public health.

We are part of a large and growing global network of health and medical organisations calling for action on climate change to protect health. Our calls include:

  • an urgent transition to zero emission renewable energy across all economic sectors with support to affected communities;
  • implementation and funding of the Australian National Health and Climate Strategy to build climate resilient communities and healthcare systems; and
  • environmentally sustainable healthcare systems.
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If you're an RACP physician, paediatrician or trainee interested in Policy and Advocacy, we want to hear from you. Find out more about how you can represent your profession or contact us.


Our work on climate change and health 

Position statements

We have 3 position statements on climate change and health:

Climate Change and Health (PDF)
Environmentally Sustainable Healthcare (PDF)
The Health Benefits of Mitigating Climate Change (PDF)

We regularly promote the recommendations in these position statements through public consultations, campaigns, and media.

Australian National Health and Climate Strategy

The RACP has welcomed the Australian Government’s release of the nation’s first ever National Health and Climate Strategy at COP28 in Dubai. The Strategy comes after more than a decade of policy and advocacy work by the RACP and others in the sector. We have had significant involvement in the development of the Strategy, including RACP President membership on the Chief Medical Officer Advisory Group, which informed the development of the Strategy. The Strategy reflects many of our key recommendations, including the need for a focus on healthy climate resilient communities in addition to a focus on climate resilient and climate friendly healthcare systems. The Hon Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care, also acknowledged the RACPs successful advocacy in securing the Strategy at the Greening the Health Care Sector conference in WA in September 2023.

The RACP’s Climate Change and Health Working Group led our submission on the Strategy’s consultation paper in 2023, supported by RACP bodies and specialty societies across the RACP.

Healthy Climate Future Campaign

The Healthy Climate Future Campaign brings together 13 medical colleges. Collectively, we advocate for climate action to build healthy and climate-resilient communities and environmentally sustainable healthcare systems. The campaign is also supported by 11 specialty societies. Together, we represent more than 100,000 doctors.

The Campaign was developed following the release of the RACP-commissioned research report Climate Change and Australia’s Healthcare Systems – A Review of Literature, Policy and Practice in 2021. The report is clear that the risks of climate change to Australian healthcare systems require urgent action.

The Australian National Health and Climate Strategy is an important first step towards improving the climate resilience of healthcare systems in Australia and the promotion and protection of the health of the population.

As part of our advocacy on the Strategy, we released a joint statement with the 12 other medical colleges involved in the campaign. The statement calls for the Strategy to be fully funded, have National Cabinet sign-off, and be First Nations led. The joint statement received significant media and social media coverage, including The RACP President Dr Jacqueline Small appearing on ABC TV in a live interview.

Support our campaign petition for the fully funded and implemented strategy here:

Sign the petition

MJA-Lancet Countdown on health and climate change

The RACP has regularly contributed to the development of the Lancet Countdown and MJA-Lancet Countdown policy briefs on Australia’s progress on health and climate change since 2017. The policy briefs provide actionable, evidence-based recommendations based on the MJA-Lancet Countdown and the global Lancet Countdown reports. We endorsed the 2022 MJA-Lancet Australian policy brief, available on Lancet Resources.

Submissions and Advocacy

2024

February
Advice: Modelling the health impacts of climate change (PDF)

Coordination of consultation session on implementing the anaesthetic and other gases actions from the National Health and Climate Strategy hosted by the RACP and facilitated by the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care.

2023

December
Media Release: Physicians welcome National Health and Climate Strategy and call for its urgent implementation (4 December 2023)
Endorsement: World Health Organization Call to Climate Action ahead of COP28

November
Submission: Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill (PDF)
Submission: Middle Arm Industrial Precinct Senate Inquiry (PDF)

October
Submission: Alternative Commonwealth Capabilities for Crisis Response Discussion Paper (PDF)

September
Media Release: Australia isn't ready for extreme weather - Climate and Health Strategy urgently needed (20 September 2023)
Presentation: Australian Medical Association and Doctors for the Environment Annual Webinar: Australia’s doctors – driving action on climate change.
Endorsement: Australian Medical Association and Doctors for the Environment Communique calling for increased investment in sustainable healthcare and urgent action on climate change to protect health.

August
Advocacy: Letter to the Prime Minister on the health harms of fossil fuels (PDF)
Advocacy: Letter to the Northern Territory Chief Minister on the health harms of fossil fuels (PDF)
Media Release: Australia's healthcare system must get ready for the next climate disaster (2 August 2023)
Submission: National Health and Climate Strategy Consultation Paper (PDF)

February
Submission: Australian Commission on Safety and Quality Sustainable Healthcare Module (PDF)

2022

March
Media Release: “Ten medical colleges representing more than100-000 doctors write to political leaders calling for a climate ready and climate-friendly healthcare system”

May
Media Release: “Physicians and paediatricians want a plan for a greener health system” calling on major parties to commit to a national climate and health strategy.

Media Release: “We must now take the lead” – Sustainable healthcare is vital for action on climate change” calling for the health system to take the lead in sustainability efforts.

June
Presentation to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee on the Climate Change and Australia’s Healthcare Systems – A Review of Literature, Policy and Practice.

Presentation at University of Notre Dame Australia on the role of health professional organizations in climate change advocacy and education and Climate Change and Australia’s Healthcare Systems – A Review of Literature, Policy and Practice.

July
Presentation at the Australian Medical Association conference on the Climate Change and Australia’s Healthcare Systems – A Review of Literature, Policy and Practice.

September
Attendance at the Better Healthier Futures Roundtable. With a focus on driving health leadership on climate action including through supporting the development and implementation of a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing for Australia.

November
Presentation at Australasian College of Sport and Exercise Science conference on the Climate Change and Australia’s Healthcare Systems – A Review of Literature, Policy and Practice.

Media Release: “Health systems straining under mounting climate pressure, MJA & Lancet report warns” calling for a National approach that recognizes the scale and complexity of impacts.

December
Media Release: “Doctors want a climate safe health system, survey shows” a new survey of healthcare workers by the RACP found that 83% of respondents supported the healthcare system becoming more climate-friendly and climate-ready.

Archive

2021

Opinion piece Climate action needed to prevent health crisis worsening by Professor John Wilson AM, RACP President

Media release “Our national health is on the line”: Physicians want a plan for climate and health from the PM at COP26 calling on the Prime Minister to acknowledge the health impacts of climate change.

Representation at the Climate Change Sustainability: Leadership and Action from Australian Doctors webinar and a joint letter to the Prime Minister (PDF)

Submission on the Victorian Health and Human Services Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan 2022-2026 (PDF)

 “Our national health is on the line”: Physicians want a plan for climate and health from the PM at COP26 

Media Release Climate change is the biggest threat to health system calling for the Government to come up with a plan to tackle climate change.

2020

Submission to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 Independent Review (PDF) followed by a media release

Submission to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements (PDF) and a subsequent Submission to the Royal Commission’s Health Issues paper (PDF)

Endorsement of a joint letter calling for a #HealthyRecovery post-COVID-19 from AMA, RACGP, CICM, ACRRM, RANZCOG, RANZCP, AMSA and DEA, along with support for a joint media release

Endorsement and support of NSW RDN Natural Disaster and Emergency Primary Health Workforce Response

2019

Media release calling on NSW and Federal governments to act on climate change and joint media release with other health organisations declaring air pollution in NSW a public health emergency in response to extreme heat and bushfire smoke

Declaration of a climate health emergency media release

Endorsement of Expert Position Statement on health-based standards for Australian regulated thresholds of nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and ozone (PDF) in ambient air, followed by a submission and media release

Submission to the Climate Health WA Inquiry (PDF)

Fossil fuel divestment letters sent to HESTA and First State super

Australian Federal election campaign statement (PDF) and advocacy, including an election advocacy kit with a factsheet (PDF), social media kit and template letter for candidates

2017

Climate Change and Health breakfast lecture (MP3) event audio recording, hosted by the RACP and facilitated by Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine Fellow, Professor Lynne Madden

2015

International 'Doctors for Climate Action' campaign coordinated by the RACP including a Global Consensus Statement: Act Now to Reduce the Damaging Health Impacts of Climate Change (PDF) supported by 69 health organisations and 1,500 individuals

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