cohealth welcomes the Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill 2023, and the opportunity to contribute to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee inquiry about it.
Climate change will have the biggest impact on future generations, yet there is currently no clear obligation for governments to consider the impact it will have on children and future generation when decisions are made that could worsen the climate crisis. The Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill 2023 aims to rectify this by ensuring that when the Australian government makes decisions which could worsen the climate crisis, it is required to consider the impacts of worsening climate change on future generations of Australians.
cohealth supports the Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill 2023 and urges Parliament to adopt it.
cohealth is one of Australia’s largest community health organisations, delivering care from over 30 locations across the inner, north, and west of Melbourne, as well as statewide services across Victoria, and services in Tasmania. cohealth provides integrated general practice, medical specialist, dental, allied health, mental health, alcohol and other drug, counselling, family violence, and social support services.
Our service delivery model prioritises people who experience social disadvantage and are consequently marginalised from mainstream health and other services – people who have multiple health conditions, experience homelessness and unstable housing, have a disability or mental illness, those engaged in the criminal justice system, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, refugees and asylum seekers, people who use alcohol and other drugs and LGBTIQ communities.
As a health organisation, cohealth recognises – and is alarmed by – the profound risks to health that climate change presents. We are convinced that climate change is caused by human action and that urgent action is required to reduce greenhouse emissions to minimise the impact of climate change.
The Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill 2023
The Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill 2023 seeks to add two conditions to decisions made under six existing pieces of legislation, including the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Where significant decisions are likely to directly or indirectly result in substantial greenhouse gas emissions, the decision maker:
These duties will do three important things:
Climate and health
Climate change is the greatest health emergency facing our planet, with the World Health Organisation describing it as the defining issue for public health in the 21st century.1 Climate change affects health in many ways: directly by the increased intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as prolonged heatwaves, floods and bushfires; and indirectly through worsening air quality, changes in the spread of infectious and vector-borne diseases, risks to food safety and drinking water quality, and effects on mental health.
The impacts of climate change will not affect everyone equally. They will be experienced most severely and disproportionately by the people who are already most disadvantaged due to the unequal and unfair distribution of power, money and other resources in society. 2 Climate change will therefore have its greatest effect on those who have contributed the least to its cause and who have the least resources to cope with it.
Health effects are expected to be more severe for children, pregnant women, low-income households, the elderly, people who work outdoors, and people with preexisting medical conditions. As such, climate change will exacerbate existing health inequalities.
Children already bear a disproportionate impact from climate change, and they will bear the burden of climate impacts into the future unless concerted action is taken now.
Government decisions made today that will result in significant carbon emissions will have lasting impacts into the future, particularly on our current and future children. To ensure that children and future generations are able to flourish it is vital that their wellbeing be central to decisions about the financing and development of projects that could harm the climate. The Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill 2023 aims to achieve this.
cohealth urges the Parliament to support the Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill 2023.