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Medical sector calls for urgent action on climate change and investment in healthcare sustainability

The Australian Medical Association and Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) are calling on federal, state and territory governments and the wider healthcare sector to take urgent action against climate change.

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The two medical groups have signed a joint statement, which was also supported by five medical colleges, calling for a net zero target for the healthcare system by 2040, with an interim reduction target of 80 per cent by 2030, and extra government resources to help tackle climate change.

AMA President Professor Steve Robson said adverse health impacts resulting from climate change were increasing in severity and frequency.

“Health issues associated with climate change are only becoming more severe due to the rapid rate of global heating caused by greenhouse gases,” Professor Robson said.

“The medical sector is increasingly leading in climate change action, which is why the AMA, DEA and medical colleges have signed this joint statement, highlighting the importance of decisive and urgent action to protect the health of Australia and the world.”

DEA chair Dr John Van Der Kallen echoed Professor Robson’s position, adding that doctors and all health professionals have a duty of care to act on the climate health emergency.

“As clinicians we have a responsibility to advocate to governments and the health sector to prioritise climate mitigation and adaptation policies to protect the health of present and future generations,” Dr Van Der Kallen said.

“A sustainable healthcare system will allow the health sector to mitigate its own carbon footprint, prepare for climate health impacts and demonstrate to the broader community that we take this problem seriously and are prepared to lead on this vital issue.”

The statement was signed during the AMA and DEA’s annual webinar Australia’s doctors – driving action on climate change held on Tuesday evening.

It was also signed by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Australasian College of Dermatologists.

During the webinar, the AMA, DEA and the medical colleges acknowledged the urgent need for Australia’s healthcare sector to rapidly reduce its carbon footprint and transition away from greenhouse gas emissions.

Professor Paul Kelly, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, presented at the webinar and highlighted the essential role of government, including establishing the National Health Sustainability and Climate Unit, and the recent consultation to develop the National Health and Climate Strategy.

The AMA, DEA and medical colleges commended the federal government for this work, but called for the unit to be properly resourced to effectively deliver the National Health and Climate Strategy.

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