Climate change is a public health crisis. It's why over 3400 health and medical professionals and organisations have signed an open letter calling on the Prime Minister to quickly cut climate pollution and replace Angus Taylor with someone who will actually reduce emissions.

Now it’s time to ramp it up – we’ve booked prime advertising space in The Australian for Monday when Parliament returns so we can send a united message to our elected representatives that health and medical experts demand action.

If you’re a health or medical professional, you can add your name by midday AEDT Friday 6 November and be published in our new ad?

Not a health or medical professional? Share this page to your networks on Facebook, or directly by email.

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Open letter

Dear Prime Minister,

We write to express our professional concern about the ramifications of the failure of the Hon Angus Taylor MP to fulfil his responsibilities of the office of the Minister for Emissions Reduction.

We are health professionals and organisations bearing witness to the harm Mr Taylor’s failure to reduce emissions is causing to the health of Australians. We are also united by our concern about the climate crisis and the impact it is having on the safety and wellbeing of Australians and our neighbours.

Public health is inextricably linked to climate health. Climate damage is here now — and it is killing people. In failing in his responsibilities to reduce emissions, Mr Taylor is contributing towards rather than reducing the harm the following is now causing:

There is already a noticeable impact from increased frequency and intensity of bushfires, floods, dust storms, drought and extreme heat, biodiversity decline, and over-allocation, reduced quality and increased salinisation of freshwater in Australia.¹ As a result, Australians are already seeing higher rates of respiratory illness,² diarrhoea³ and morbidity requiring hospital admission⁴ during hot days, and higher rates of suicide in rural areas during drought years.

The burning of fossil fuels such as coal and gas that drives global warming is also a major contributor to air pollution - this silent killer is linked to the premature deaths of 3,000 Australians each year. Higher levels of air pollution are also associated with increasing illness and death related to ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive airways disease, lung cancer and asthma,⁵ ⁶ and also with adverse outcomes in pregnancy, including low birthweight and stillbirth.⁷ The annual cost to Australia from air pollution mortality alone is estimated to be $11.1- $24.3 billion.⁸

Mr Taylor is failing in his ministerial duties in three critical ways:

  1. Mr Taylor continues to allocate public money to gas and other polluting fossil fuel projects while overseeing a nationwide 50% decline in large-scale renewables investment from a record high in financial year 2018-19. This sharp decline in investor confidence is largely due to the lack of coherent energy policy with targets to reduce emissions, and a failure to invest in upgrading transmission infrastructure to enable more renewable energy to connect to the national grid. Mr Taylor’s Low Emissions Technology Statement and Technology Investment Roadmap proposes providing public money to fossil fuel projects, including hydrogen from gas or coal and unproven carbon capture and storage (CCS).Mr Taylor is moving to amend the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC)Act to corrupt the clean energy mandate of Australia’s highly successful public‘green bank’, change the definition of ‘low emissions’, and enable the CEFC to invest in new polluting gas projects. Under the changes, the Underwriting New Generation Investment scheme - including five short-listed gas projects - would be transferred to the CEFC.
  2. Mr Taylor is failing to reduce Australia’s emissions in line with our international obligations. Your government’s own projections show that Australia will not achieve its current emissions reduction targets of 26-28% below 2005 levels without further action⁹. Australia needs to cut emissions further to play our part in holding warming well below 2°C and limiting it to 1.5°C. Under Mr Taylor’s watch, there are no federal government targets or policies under which Australia’s emissions would be substantially reduced. There is no national strategy to transition Australia to a zero emissions economy that is able to create jobs, attract investment and generate opportunities in line with our commitments under the Paris Agreement.
  3. Mr Taylor has failed to commit Australia to a 2050 net zero emissions target, isolating the federal government from its state counterparts, business, farmers, and civil society and Australia from the international community. Every Australian state and territory government, major business and industry group, major civil society group and the national farmers’ body has committed to a net zero by 2050 target in line with the Paris Agreement. Under Mr Taylor’s watch, the federal government now stands alone in refusing to commit to this target. The lack of a target contributes to investment uncertainty. Mr Taylor has overseen Australia’s use of ‘carryover credits’, a controversial accounting trick, at the 25th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (CoP25) in Madrid. This significantly erodes Australia’s credibility in global efforts to tackle climate change.

Our recovery from the impacts of Covid-19 must recognise that human health, economic health and environmental health are closely connected. The pandemic compels us to pursue a recovery that strengthens our resilience to future shocks; to our collective health, to economic frailties and to extremes of weather.This is a crucial time for Australia and the planet in addressing the climate crisis. Australia has one of the largest greenhouse gas emissions and highest per capita emissions in the world. Australia is one of the largest exporters of coal and gas. We urge you to immediately take meaningful action to reduce emissions and tackle climate change, and replace Angus Taylor with a Minister who is committed to this goal.

References

  • ¹ Head L, Adams M, McGregor HV et al. Climate change and Australia. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 2014;5(2):175–197.
  • ² Vaneckova P, Bambrick H. Cause-specific hospital admissions on hot days in Sydney, Australia. PLoS ONE 2013;8(2):e55459.
  • ³ Xu Z, Liu Y, Ma Z et al. Assessment of the temperature effect on childhood diarrhea using satellite imagery.
    Scientific Reports 2014;4:5389.
  • Hondula DM, Barnett AG. Heat-related morbidity in Brisbane, Australia: spatial variation and area-level
    predictors. Environmental Health Perspectives 2014;122:831–836.
  • Borchers Arriagada N, Palmer AJ, Bowman DMJS, Morgan GG, Jalaludin BB, Johnston FH. Unprecedented
    smoke-related health burden associated with the 2019–20 bushfires in eastern Australia. Med J Aust 2020; 213 (6):
    282-283
  • Begg S, Vos T, Barker B, Stevenson C, Stanley L, Lopez A. The Burden of Disease and Injury in Australia 2003.
    PHE 82. Canberra: AIHW. 2007.
  • DeNicola NG, Bekkar B, Pacheco S, Basu R. A Scoping Review of Climate- Change Related Exposures on
    Obstetrics Outcomes. Obstet Gynaecol. 2019;133;78S
  • National Environment Protection Council, Draft Variation to the National Environment protection (Ambient Air
    Quality) Measure Impact Statement. 2014
    http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/pages/dfe7ed5d-1eaf-4ff2-bfe7-dbb7ebaf21a9/files/aaq-nepm-draftvariation-impact-statement.pdf
  • Department of the Environment and Energy, Tracking to Australia’s emissions reduction targets. Emissions
    targets only met through accounting measures rather than emissions reduction:
    https://www.industry.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-07/tracking-australias-emissions-reduction-targets-2019-fact-sheet.pdf

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Check out the full-page ad we ran in last Monday's The Australian:

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When it comes to the climate crisis, so much is at stake. We simply don't have time for Ministers who can’t or won’t do their job to cut climate pollution. They’ve acted on health and medical evidence and advice during the pandemic – it’s time they do the same to address the climate crisis.