29 November 2023

RACGP backs duty of care bill for climate change harms

Australia’s largest representative body for GPs has thrown its support behind a duty of care bill requiring the Federal Government to protect young people from climate change harms in decision-making. 

It comes in the lead up to the first-ever Health Day at the COP28 UN Climate Conference, on Sunday 3 December, which will highlight the health impacts of climate change and the health case for climate action.  

Independent ACT Senator David Pocock introduced the bill which proposes government must consider the wellbeing of young people and future generations when making decisions that facilitate or fund projects that could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions. 

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) President Dr Nicole Higgins said climate change is already impacting the health and wellbeing of Australians. 

“GPs are on the frontline of the climate crisis when it comes to the impacts on human health and wellbeing,” she said. 

“Climate change has widespread impacts on human health. Bushfires, heatwaves, floods, storms, and cyclones kill, cause injuries, spread disease and cause long-term mental health issues.  

“And the health impacts of climate change on our population, and particularly our children and future generations, should be considered in all government decisions that could substantially contribute to climate change.”  

RACGP Specific Interests Climate and Environmental Medicine Chair Dr Catherine Pendrey said climate change is a global public health emergency. 

“Climate change is a public health emergency, and our leaders need to act urgently,” she said. 

“The fact that this summer is predicted to be one of the worst bushfire seasons since Black Saturday is a stark reminder that climate change is already impacting our health. Bushfires and other extreme weather events, such as cyclones and droughts, are more frequent and severe because of climate change. 

“Our government has a responsibility to safeguard the health of Australia’s population and global populations from the climate crisis. The potential harms from climate change, including to human health and wellbeing, should be considered in any decisions that could cause substantial greenhouse gas emissions. This is in the best interests of our children, and future generations." 

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