Australian healthcare services and the climate change debate

After years of highly charged political and public debate on tackling climate change, Australia started taxing carbon emissions on 1 July 2012. Under the carbon tax, Australia’s biggest carbon emitting companies will pay a fixed-price levy on their carbon emissions for three years. At the end of this period, the carbon tax will transition to an emissions trading scheme, from 1 July 2015.

Healthcare services and hospitals are not directly affected by the carbon tax, as they are not among the biggest polluting companies in Australia. However, they may experience some indirect flow-on costs, in the form of higher energy prices. Though as this Policy Brief will explain, any overall increases in costs for public hospitals are likely to be minimal at most once the compensatory effects of new hospital funding arrangements are taken into account. Nonetheless, with the health sector responsible for 7 per cent of total carbon emissions from buildings in Australia,  there is significant scope for the sector to reduce its carbon footprint through greater energy efficiency measures.

Of course, the health sector also has a much broader interest in the climate change debate: the impacts of climate change on human health. Climate experts now agree that the health impacts of climate change, such as the spread of infectious diseases, and illness and fatalities related to severe weather events, are significant, and pose a significant threat for the future.

This Policy Brief will explore each of these issues and outline policy options and other initiatives currently in place to address them.  Click below to access this report.