As the climate crisis continues, people the world over are also dealing with the repercussions of a global pandemic. While we know that taking climate action contributes to a healthy planet, there are ways that climate action can also contribute to healthier people and communities.
Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) described climate change as the biggest threat to health in the 21st century1. Many countries, including Australia are experiencing increased intensity and frequency of extreme weather events such as bushfires, heatwaves, droughts, and floods, which impact directly on human health.
The effects of climate change also contribute to worsening air and water quality, an increase in infectious diseases, and threats to water and food security. Working within the industry, Greenfleet supporter 1Medical has witnessed first-hand the impact a changing climate has on the healthcare system.
Ryan Kevelighan, from 1Medical advised “Doctors, and the entire healthcare system, are on the frontline of these issues and the impact of climate change is becoming increasingly apparent. More health issues are emerging from increased heat events, floods, storms, bushfires and droughts, all of which have negative impacts on healthcare outcomes in communities”.
As temperatures and extreme weather events rise, so do the health impacts on people - particularly our most vulnerable.
Children, pregnant people, and older generations are more at risk of heat stress and dehydration during heatwaves. They are also more sensitive to the hazardous smoke from bushfires and the burning of fossil fuels. These groups are disproportionately represented in the millions of people globally who die each year due to air pollution related diseases2,3.
According to WHO, climate change will cause an estimated 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050. Most of these from malnutrition, heat stress, diarrhoea, and infectious diseases.
The climate crisis is a health crisis. Action on climate change is an opportunity to improve the health of all people, and all life, on earth.
Maria Neira, Director of WHO’s Department of Public Health and Environment, explains the benefits of green policies to the health sector. “We know that climate change mitigation can yield substantial and immediate health benefits. It is time now to translate knowledge into action”1,4.
Climate change mitigation policies that are designed with health co-benefits in mind can improve the health of individuals and communities. Additionally, these actions can potentially provide economic benefits to the health sector, saving billions in reduced health costs globally.
Recent modelling estimates that in the European Region alone, reaching the emissions reductions target set out in the Paris Agreement would save at least USD$277 billion from the region’s healthcare budget by 20301,5. As well as the number of lives that could be saved, that is billions of dollars that could be utilised to radically improve public health outcomes.
As we witness the convergence of a global pandemic and the climate crisis, now is the time to act. Climate change may be one of the biggest threats to health this century, but it also presents the opportunity to improve the health of all people through climate action. Collective action on a global scale is necessary from individuals, industries, and governments.
While change at a policy level is vital for our planet, there is also a role that organisations and individuals can play in taking climate action. Initiatives focused on mitigating climate change can reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maximising co-benefits for health.
At Greenfleet we are focused on taking climate action by restoring native forests that capture carbon from the atmosphere and can help improve air and water quality. Our supporters offset their emissions with us to minimise their environmental footprints and work towards restoring native forests that contribute to a healthier planet.
Long-term Greenfleet supporter, EBOS Group, is the largest marketer, wholesaler and distributor of healthcare, medical and pharmaceutical products in Australia and New Zealand. As a leading marketer and distributor of recognised consumer products and animal care brands, EBOS Group is acutely aware of the link between a healthy community and a healthy planet.
Simon Bunde is the Executive General Manager, Strategic Operations and Innovation at EBOS Group and noted that, “as a market leading company, EBOS is committed to improving the lives of people and animals in the communities where we operate. For us, a big part of this is ensuring we conduct ourselves responsibly and increase sustainability across our business, which is why we’ve been proud to partner with Greenfleet since 2007 to offset emissions from our operations.”
We can all play a part in improving the health of our communities through climate action. By offsetting the emissions from your home, travel, or business, you are helping to restore ecosystems that are contributing to a healthier planet and better health outcomes for current and future generations.
To help Greenfleet scale up its efforts to capture carbon emissions, restore native habitat and improve soil and water quality for healthier communities visit www.greenfleet.com.au/offset
- COP24 special report: health and climate change. Geneva: World Health Organisation; 2018
- 'Invisible killer': fossil fuels caused 8.7m deaths globally in 2018, research finds; The Guardian; 2021
- Air Pollution: World Health Organisation; 2021
- Climate change: an opportunity for public health. Geneva: World Health Organisation; 2014
- Policy brief - Healthy mitigation in the WHO European Region; World Health Organisation; 2021