22 February 2024

Government should be responsible for safeguarding Australia’s children from climate crisis health harms

A representative from Australia’s peak GP body will speak about the widespread impacts of climate change on human health at a public hearing for Independent ACT Senator David Pocock’s duty of care bill today. 

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) detailed its support for the bill requiring the Federal Government to protect young people from climate change harms in decision-making in a submission last year. 

RACGP Specific Interests Climate and Environmental Medicine Chair Dr Catherine Pendrey will tell a public hearing for the bill today that climate change is a global public health emergency. 

"As a GP, safeguarding child health is always at the centre of what I do. But it's not every day that I get to speak at a Senate Inquiry at 38 weeks pregnant, about our duty of care to safeguard the future for children. 

“We must address climate change to protect child health. 

“Climate change is the greatest threat to health we face today. However, in Australia and globally, new fossil fuel projects are still being developed that will result in substantial increases to greenhouse gas emissions and drive climate change. We have already experienced 1.4°C of warming in Australia and the latest UN Emissions Gap Report shows countries' commitments are only enough to limit warming to 2.5-2.9°C this century, if they are fully implemented.  

“Climate change is already affecting the health of Australians and communities around the world. We have had yet another summer of dangerous heatwaves, floods, bushfires and storms. Extreme weather causes injuries and deaths, as well as long term physical health problems and mental trauma. Children and young people are especially vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change. It’s time to act.   

“The duty of care bill proposed by Independent Senator David Pocock would require government to consider the wellbeing of young people and future generations when making decisions that facilitate or fund projects that could significantly increase greenhouse emissions.  

“I hope our Parliamentarians support this proposal. We all want the best future possible for our children, and ignoring the health risks of climate change is downright dangerous.”  


Media enquiries

Journalists and media outlets seeking comment and information from the RACGP can contact John Ronan, Ally Francis and Stuart Winthrope via:

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