Submission to the House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy on the Climate Change (National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation) Bill 2020
From: Valerie Kay, PhD
Dear Committee members
Background to this submission:
- In 2018 I completed a PhD on promoting equity, environmental sustainability and health in Victoria. A copy of my PhD is available through the Monash University library here https://bridges.monash.edu/articles/Promoting_equity_environmental_sustainability_and_health_frameworks_for_action_and_advocacy/6199379 and an article with some key findings is available here https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/hpja.281
- Since 2014, I have been teaching in the unit MPH5042 Climate Change and Public Health in the Monash University Masters of Public Health course and am currently the Chief Examiner and Unit Coordinator in the unit https://handbook.monash.edu/2020/units/MPH5042. I am happy for this information to be publicly available in the submission, as it is already in the public domain.
- Unfortunately due to the very limited time I have to prepare this submission, I cannot cite all the relevant sources for the statements in this submission, but would be very happy to provide further follow up information to the committee. If I can obtain the permission of the University, I may be able to provide in confidence to the committee some of the teaching material from the unit, which is in plain language and would be available at short notice.
As someone who has been researching and teaching in this area for over ten years, I am writing to urge you to support this Bill, and to suggest some amendments to strengthen the Bill.
Climate change is an unequivocal threat to the health and wellbeing of Australians, people of the world, and other species. People in Australian and elsewhere are already dying as a result of climate change, particularly through extreme heat events. Other risks, including from floods and other severe weather events, droughts and water shortages in some areas, bushfire risk, and wider range and novel forms of infectious diseases, are also increasing.
It is more than possible, it is unfortunately likely, that significant areas of Australia and other parts of the world may become uninhabitable for humans this century, unless we act now to reduce emissions and do as much as humanly possible to hold global warming to 1.5C.
Even at 1.5C, much of the Barrier Reef is likely to be lost, and at 2C it is likely that all will be. I cannot believe that committee members can stand by and let this happen, let alone face the possibility that your actions will be responsible for more deaths from climate change and a frightening legacy for today’s children and young people.
I say this not to scare committee members, but because my reading of the Bill suggests to me that even the drafters of this Bill, well-informed as they clearly are, have not yet fully understood the risks to health from climate change.
In order to address these risks, it is essential to have a non-partisan approach to climate change in this country. Findings from research outlined in the article linked above, strongly suggests that in the period 2009-16, particularly in the federal election year of 2013, health workers and community members were deterred from acting on climate and environmental sustainability by the politicisation of climate change in Australia.
The actions that they were taking were ones I am sure committee members, as representatives of local electorates, would strongly support. Their work involved projects to increase housing sustainability and reduce energy bills for low income community members, support community members in growing and sharing local fresh food, and increase active transport though walking and cycling. All these actions have direct benefits for people’s health, as well as a wide range of benefits from promoting a more sustainable, fair and socially inclusive society, and reducing carbon emissions. I am confident committee members would never again wish to see a situation where local community members were deterred from such worthwhile actions by the politicisation of climate change. It is imperative that Australia develops a non-partisan approach to climate change, and this Bill, proposed by an independent member of parliament, gives a chance to achieve that. I strongly urge you to support the Bill.
As noted, I also suggest that the drafters of the Bill have not fully recognised the degree of risk from climate change to the health of humans and other species. Similarly, it appears they may not have fully recognised the potential benefits to health and wellbeing from addressing climate change. They also may not have recognised the extent to which the science of climate change has been perceived as ‘top-down’ and remote, detached from the everyday experience of people’s lives. These factors are connected. There is research showing that when people realise the impact that climate change is having, and will have, on health, it becomes much more meaningful to them and makes them more likely to act, and support action, on climate change.
On the basis of this evidence (which, as stated, I am more
than happy to provide to the committee), I make the following suggestions for
amendments to strengthen the Bill:
S1 Objects of the Act
- Clause (1) (a) should include reference to serious challenges to health and survival of Australians, other people of the world, and other species.
- Clause (1) (b) should specify limiting global warming to 1.5C as the primary goal and restricting it to under 2C as secondary.
- Clause (2) (f) should include ‘community’ as well as government and private sector
- (2) (a) should include risk to ‘health of Australia’s population’ first, before economy, and not confined to workers.
- (a) health effects should be first, not economic effects (climate change is genuinely a matter of life and death, and this should be recognised)
- (3) include benefits to health from emissions reductions, and savings from reductions in healthcare costs due to reduced climate change impacts
- (2) should also include experience and knowledge in social change, community participation and development, health impacts of climate change, and the health co-benefits of climate action and emissions reductions
- (5) (b) a minimum of two members to be Indigenous Australians (appointing one person to represent previously marginalised groups can lead to further marginalisation on committees when the single representative presents, or is inhibited from presenting, viewpoints that appear to conflict with conventional or ‘mainstream’ perspectives)
Thank you for your consideration and my best wishes for the success of this Bill.