CAHA in Canberra – advocating directly to Parliament on climate and health

Ingrid Johnston and Fiona Armstrong

Yesterday, the Public Health Association of Australia was part of a delegation of more than 30 health leaders from across Australia, led by the Climate and Health Alliance. The group met with 33 MPs and Senators to emphasise the need for a National Strategy on Climate and Health in Australia. The group included two former Chief Health Officers, Emeritus Professor Gerard FitzGerald and Dr Taylor Roscoe, and drew media attention from AAP, The Guardian, RenewEconomy, RN Breakfast and more.

We know that climate change poses serious, increasing threats to human health, and the environmental and planetary systems on which our health depends. The health of people in Australia is already being severely and negatively impacted by bushfires and smoke, floods, heatwaves, drought and food insecurity — and impacts are set to worsen.

There are clear pathways to improving health and wellbeing through climate action. Failure to pursue these pathways is extremely costly, damages Australia’s standing in the world as a leader on health, and ultimately poses an existential threat. Recent research estimates that 1 in 5 deaths globally are attributable to the burning of fossil fuels[1]. Under current emissions policies, climate change will cost the Australian economy at least $1.89 trillion over the next 30 years, about 4% of GDP each year. By 2038, the annual economic damages will be the equivalent to the economic impact of COVID-19 every year.[2]

CAHA is advocating for a cohesive national strategy to address climate and health, including the following recommendations:

  • develop  short, medium and long term emissions reductions targets;
  • phase  out coal and gas to reduce air pollution from fossil fuels;
  • inform climate and health policy decisions with analysis of the economic savings from health benefits of emissions reductions;
  • integrate climate and disaster planning and emergency planning to manage concurrent climate and health emergencies;
  • invest in long term risk management and security of energy, water and food systems;
  • develop a national education campaign to inform the public about the links between climate change and health;
  • establish a national sustainable development unit in the federal Department of Health to provide leadership on the health sector’s climate and environmental footprint;
  • create a National Ministerial Forum on climate change and health to facilitate cooperation and leadership across multiple portfolios on climate and health policy;
  • build research capacity by funding research on climate and health; and
  • expand conservation programs to preserve natural environments and restore forests, rivers and wetlands.

To increase support among our Parliamentarians for this National Strategy, CAHA requested meetings with every Federal MP and Senator. During what has been a very busy week in Parliament, we were thrilled to have our requests for a meeting accepted by (listed in alphabetical order):


Members of the ALP:

The Hon Chris Bowen MP

Mr Josh Burns MP

The Hon Mark Butler MP

Mr Nick Champion MP

Ms Libby Coker MP

Mr Pat Conroy MP

Dr Mike Freelander MP

Ms Ged Kearney MP

Mr Peter Khalil MP

Ms Emma McBride MP

Mr Brian Mitchell MP

Senator Deborah O’Neill

Ms Julie Owens MP

Ms Alicia Payne MP

Mr Graham Perrett MP

The Hon Warren Snowdon MP

Ms Anne Stanley MP

The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Ms Kate Thwaites MP

Ms Maria Vamvakinou MP


Members of the Coalition:

Senator Andrew Bragg

Mr Russell Broadbent MP

The Hon Michael McCormack MP


Members of the Greens:

Mr Adam Bandt MP

Senator Mehreen Faruqi

Senator Janet Rice

Senator Rachel Siewert

Senator Jordon Steele-John

Senator Lidia Thorpe

Senator Larissa Waters




Dr Helen Haines MP

Ms Rebekha Sharkie MP

Ms Zali Steggall OAM, MP

Mr Andrew Wilkie MP



The meetings provided a great opportunity to share information with those unfamiliar with the links between climate and health, strengthen relationships with key allies, and facilitate public demonstrations of support.

We have seen from the response to COVID-19 that as a nation we can take strong action to protect our health from an emergency, based on the advice of experts. Climate change is an emergency which is already taking lives, and we must respond accordingly.





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