Australian Medical Students' Association's submission to Australia's post-2020 targets review
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Australian Medical Students’ Association’s submission to Australia’s post-2020 targets review The Australian Medical Students’ Association would like to draw the attention of the UNFCCC Taskforce to the immense importance for the health of Australians of an ambitious commitment from Australia to an effective and equitable global response to climate change, and to the substantial health benefits of an emissions reduction target consistent with avoiding 2 degrees Celsius of global warming. 1. A national emissions budget for 2013–2050 of 10,100 Mt CO2-e 2. An early target of at least 40% reduction in emission on 2000 levels by 2025. 3. An intermediate target of at least 60% reduction in emissions on 2000 levels by 2030. 4. A long term post-2020 target of at least 95% reduction in emissions on 2000 levels by 2050. 5. Complete transparency from the government with regard to the methods and models used to determine its carbon budget and emissions reduction targets. 6. Consideration of the overwhelmingly negative impacts on health of weak emissions reduction targets 7. Recognition of the significant potential for health co-benefits with strong climate mitigation. Subsequent savings in the health sector may reduce the cost for the Australian government to commit to our aforementioned recommended emissions reduction targets. 8. Adoption of a range of policy tools including carbon pricing which will efficiently reduce emissions and protect health and wellbeing Introduction The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) is the peak representative body for Australia’s 17,000 medical students. AMSA’s key mandate is to connect, inform and represent students studying at each of the 20 medical schools in Australia. Furthermore, AMSA believes that all communities have the right to the best attainable health, and accordingly seeks to advocate on issues that may impact health outcomes. AMSA acknowledges that climate change is a serious threat to human health of the present century and threatens the health of communities both in Australia and globally. Accordingly, AMSA actively seeks to advocate on issues that may impact on health outcomes by affecting mitigation of climate change.
Medical students around the country feel strongly that Australia’s post-2020 emissions reduction target must be set in consideration of the health impacts of climate change, and their associated economic burden, in addition to the health co- benefits of certain mitigation policies, and their associated economic gains. What should Australia’s post-2020 target be and how should it be expressed? Australia should commit to the following post-2020 targets: 1. A national emissions budget for 2013–2050 of 10,100 Mt CO2-e 2. An early target of at least 40% reduction in emission on 2000 levels by 2025. 3. An intermediate target of at least 60% reduction in emissions on 2000 levels by 2030. 4. A long-term post-2020 target of at least 95% reduction in emissions on 2000 levels by 2050. These targets should cover all sectors of the economy and all greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol, namely: ● Carbon Dioxide (CO2) ● Methane (CH4) ● Nitrous Oxide (N2O) ● Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) ● Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) ● Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) ● Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) As outlined below, these targets are consistent with the requirement to avoid dangerous climate change in the context of Australia's national circumstances, and the efforts of key trading partners and major economies. Avoiding dangerous climate change As mention on page 6 of the issues paper, Australia's emissions reduction target must fairly contribute 'to achieving the UNFCCC’s objective of stabilising emissions at a level that would avoid dangerous climate change.' This objective of the UNFCCC is stated in Article 2 of the Convention as follows: "The ultimate objective of this Convention and any related legal instruments that the Conference of the Parties may adopt is to achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner." (1)
Given the definitions provided in Article 1 of the convention, the phrase 'dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system' is equivalent to the phrase 'dangerous climate change'. Subsequent agreements under the UNFCCC have defined what constitutes 'dangerous climate change', and therefore to what objective Australia's target must aim. Paragraph 1 of the Copenhagen Accord of 2009 states the following: "To achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, we shall, recognizing the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius, on the basis of equity and in the context of sustainable development, enhance our long-term cooperative action to combat climate change" (2) Paragraph 2 of the Copenhagen Accord further emphasises the following: "We agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science, and as documented by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report with a view to reduce global emissions so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius, and take action to meet this objective consistent with science and on the basis of equity". (2) Moreover, paragraph 4 of the 2010 Cancun Agreement states: "that deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required according to science, and as documented in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with a view to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions so as to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2 °C above preindustrial levels, and that Parties should take urgent action to meet this long-term goal, consistent with science and on the basis of equity; also recognizes the need to consider, in the context of the first review, as referred to in paragraph 138 below, strengthening the long-term global goal on the basis of the best available scientific knowledge, including in relation to a global average temperature rise of 1.5 °C" (3) As such, Australia's post-2020 target must be defined in reference to holding the increase in global average temperature rise at least below 2 °C above preindustrial levels, in accordance with scientific requirements. Considerations of economic growth, population growth, job security, and business competitiveness are secondary considerations to the overall objective. Although these questions should be kept in mind in the development of policy instruments, they should not overshadow the overall objective of Article 2 of the convention, which should be based on sound scientific evidence, rather than political agendas or particular business interests. The Climate Change Authority has modelled what constitutes Australia's fair share of global emissions reductions in its 2014 Targets and Progress Review. This review highlights that keeping within a global emissions budget of 1,700 Gt CO2 -e between
2000 and 2050 is necessary to have a likely (two-thirds) chance of avoiding temperature rise above the 2°C limit. The Authority calculates that Australia's fair share of this budget is 10,100 Mt CO2-e for the 2013–2050 period, based on a modified contraction and convergence approach. (4) Given this national carbon budget, the Authority recommends a post-2020 emission reduction target range of 40-60% below 2000 levels by 2030. (4) AMSA recommends the 2030 target should be a 60% reduction in emissions on 2000 levels. According to the Climate Institute, the 40% lower limit of the Authority's recommendation is more consistent with seeking to avoid a 3°C temperature rise, hence Australia should adopt a 60% reduction below 2000 levels by 2030 in order to be consistent with avoiding a 2°C global temperature rise. The reasons for suggesting a 2025 and 2050 target are outlined below. AMSA recommends that Australia's post-2020 target must be defined in reference to the scientific recommendation and international agreement to hold global temperature rise at least below 2°C above preindustrial levels in order to avoid dangerous climate change, and further recommends the aforementioned targets in-line with this 2°C limit. Australia's National Circumstances The issue paper raises a number of concerns regarding potential limitations on the strength of Australia's target. These issues related to Australia's higher than average economic growth; population growth; dependence on fossil fuels; and economic dependence on natural resource extraction. In highlighting the strength of Australia's effort to address climate change, the issues paper also states that: 'Between 1990 and 2014 the economy nearly doubled in size and our population grew strongly, while greenhouse gas emissions remained broadly the same. Australia’s emissions per capita have reduced by 28 per cent since 1990 and by 20 per cent since 2000 and emissions per unit of gross domestic product have fallen by 52 per cent since 1990 and by 35 per cent since 2000.' This establishes that Australia already has the capacity to decouple population growth, economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, a number of groups have already modelled economic growth with different emissions reduction levels. Table 1. showing these models has been adapted from the Climate Institute's post-2020 Emissions Challenge Report. The central conclusion of all of these analyses is that significant emissions reductions by Australia can be achieved with ongoing economic growth.
Table 1. Studies of projected economic growth with emissions reduction targets. (adapted from Climate Institute report "Australia's Post-2020 Emission Reduction Challenge") (5) Studies Indexed % change in GDP (on Indexed % change in 2010 levels) emissions (on 2010 levels) 2025 2050 2025 2050 ABARE 2006 46 122 10 -50 Allens Consulting 2006 48 132 -20 -63 The Climate Institute 2007 59 to 62 186 to 192 -9 to -18 -46 to -100 Treasury 2008 48 to 53 137 to 147 -9 to -19 -57 to -73 Treasury 2011 57 to 58 170 to 171 -21 to -37 -81 Climate Change Authority 62 to 64 N/A -18 to -35 -80 ClimateWorks, ANU, CSIRO 53 154 -32 -100 2014 A drawback of these economic models is that none of them include economic benefits of reduced greenhouse gas emissions in their assessment. Assessments by the United States government and the International Monetary Fund indicate that substantial emission reductions would deliver multi-trillion dollar health, environmental and economic benefits over the long term (conservatively NPV $1-3.5 trillion). (6) Additionally, these assessments do not account for some climate damages that are difficult to quantify, yet are vital to Australia's prosperity. For example, they exclude damage from: increased severity of bushfire weather; agricultural losses through drought and extreme weather events; the loss of the Great Barrier Reef; and the regional or global disruption of traded commodities. Focusing narrowly on the costs of reducing emissions biases these analyses towards weaker mitigation. For example, based on a 'high end scenario' of 1.1 m sea level rise in the IPCC fourth assessment report, the Climate Council estimates that more than $226 billion in commercial, industrial, road and rail, and residential assets are at risk from flooding. These estimates should be included as benefits of strong mitigation in the government's assessment. In order to develop a representative target, the government should utilise a robust costs and benefits analysis of different emissions reduction targets, paying particular attention to economic, social, environmental and health costs AND benefits. The health costs and benefits of strong and weak mitigation actions for Australia are discussed later in this submission. Just as focussing on costs and neglecting benefits biases the economic evaluation, focussing on barriers and neglecting opportunities biases the solutions assessment. The issues paper suggests that 'Australia’s abundant energy and mineral resources and limited scope to harness hydroelectricity' are key barriers to strong mitigation.
However, Australia has tremendous opportunity to harness other renewable energy sources in order to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and limit warming to below 2°C. There is an overwhelming abundance of literature underscoring Australia's potential to harness renewable energy, including solar, wind, geothermal, wave/tide, biomass and fuel cells. (7, 8) Indeed a recent report by the WWF and Australian National University found that Australia has among the best settings in the world to achieve 100% of energy generation from renewable energy by 2050, and that it could achieve this without incurring massive adjustment costs or depressing economic growth. (9)This can only be achieved, however, if there are clear and stable national policy settings to support investment in renewables. In reiterating Paragraph 2 of the 2009 Copenhagen Accord "we agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required [...] to hold the increase in global temperature below 2°C". Available modelling suggests that Australia has the renewable energy resources to achieve this without sacrificing strong economic growth. As such, concerns about economic growth should not interfere with target setting, and should instead be considered in the realm of policy instruments. The issues paper further cites that 'iron ore and concentrates, coal and natural gas made up around 40 per cent of Australia’s exports at a value of around $124 billion' and references the 2014 IEA World Energy Outlook, saying that 'by 2040, it is estimated that 74 per cent will still be met by carbon-based sources'. The latter projection is based on the "New Policies Scenario", which takes into account current policies around the world. This same report stats that 'Policy choices and market developments that bring the share of fossil fuels in primary energy demand down to just under three-quarters in 2040 are not enough to stem the rise in energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which grow by one-fifth. This puts the world on a path consistent with a long-term global average temperature increase of 3.6 °C.' Thus the "New Policies Scenario" underscores the need for stronger action by all countries, including Australia, to stay below the 2 °C limit, and should not be used to excuse action. This urgent need for stronger targets from Australia is emphasised in the report, which states "advances in technology and efficiency give some reasons for optimism, but sustained political efforts will be essential to change energy trends for the better." Thus, in-line the political effort needed, the Australian government should not be developing targets based on the "New Policies Scenario", which predicts a 3.6°C temperature rise, but rather on the "450 Scenario", which presents an energy pathway consistent with the goal of limiting the global increase in temperature to 2°C. Australia has already committed to this goal, and its targets should reflect this. The report also acknowledges that 'while coal is abundant and its supply secure, its future use is constrained by measures to tackle pollution and reduce CO2 emissions.' Indeed, McGlade and Ekins estimate for the OECD Pacific region, which includes Australia, Japan and South Korea, 37%, 53% and 93% of oil, gas, and coal reserves respectively cannot be utilised for a 2°C scenario with carbon capture and storage (CCS) usage. Without CCS these figures change to 46%, 51%
and 95% for oil, gas, and coal respectively. (10) Thus Australia's fossil fuel reserves are presently over-valued in a carbon-constrained world, and continued reliance on coal and gas exports will leave Australia's assets stranded. Recent downturns in iron ore prices from $120 per tonne in 2013 to around a third of that in recent weeks, has reduced export and budget revenue forecasts. (11) Given movements around the world to reduce carbon emissions, and what the intergenerational report calls 'the end of the construction phase of the mining boom', the 40% of exports from iron ore, gas, and coal stated in the issues paper are unlikely to be as significant in the future. While this presents a challenge for Australia, it also presents a tremendous opportunity for Australia to look to new enterprises and to build a sustainable economy that does not rely on fossil fuel exports. Our recommended carbon budget and emissions reduction targets are consistent with the need to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees without depressing the Australian economy. Moreover, our 2025, 2030, and 2050 targets provide a balance between long-term objectives and short-term commitments. This represents a balance between the flexibility to respond to scientific and technical change, and longer-term boundaries that allow investment decisions to be made in expectation of reasonable policy stability. Australia's Fair Share Defining Australia's "fair share" is a complicated task. Many argue that Australia should not have strong emissions reduction targets, because it only produces 1.1% of global emissions. (12) However, this logic is flawed for a number of reasons. Firstly, while, Australia's absolute emissions are 1.1%, Australia's population comprises only 0.3% of the global population, making Australia the 12th largest CO2 emitter per capita. (12,13) Thus, on an equity basis, Australia is already producing more than its fair share of carbon emissions, and should do more than other nations to reduce its emissions. Secondly, the issues paper acknowledges that 'commitments by all countries to reduce or limit their greenhouse gas emissions are needed to make a genuine impact globally.' There are 22 countries whose absolute emissions range from 0.5% to 1.5% of global emissions, similar to Australia. The cumulative emissions of these nations mount to about 21.5% of total global emissions, more than the total emissions of Europe or Central Asia. Should all these nations adopt the line of reasoning that absolute emissions should determine strength of mitigation, a large amount of emissions reduction would go unaccounted for. This underscores the need for a global response from all nations, including Australia, and for the need to consider emissions per capita, on an equity basis, and not just absolute emissions. The issues paper states that Australia will also consider the efforts of key trading partners and major economies. According to DFAT, Australia's top 10 key trading
partners are: China, Japan, United States, Republic of Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Thailand, Malaysia, and Germany. (14) According to the International Monetary Fund, the world's top 10 economies are: United States, China, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Brazil, India, Italy, and Russia, with the European Union being the largest economy by region. (15) Thus, there are a large host of nations to which Australia could compare its targets. Given the need to consider emissions per capita, in addition to absolute emissions on an equity basis, reasonable comparisons for Australia's emission reduction target could made against with those key trading partners and major economies with similar GDP per capita to Australia. (15) These countries include: United States, Germany, United Kingdom. Table 2. shows the contributions of these nations to date. Given the targets presented in Table 2, our recommended targets of 40%, 60%, and 95% on 2000 levels by 2025, 2030, and 2050 are similar to key trading partners and major economies with comparable economies to Australia on a GDP per capita basis. Table 2. Emissions reduction targets of major economies and key trading partners with comparable economies per capita to Australia. Nation Intermediate Post-2020 target. Long term 2050 Target United States 26-28% reduction on 2005 levels by 83% Reduction on 2005 levels 2025 Germany (EU) 40% reduction on 1990 levels by 2030 80-95% reductions on 1990 levels United Kingdom 40% reduction on 1990 levels by 2030 80-95% reductions on 1990 (EU) levels With these comparisons in mind, it is essential for Australia to commit to a carbon budget until 2050. This commitment, together with a 2050 target will give longer-term boundaries that allow investment decisions to be made in expectation of reasonable policy stability. The Climate Change Authority has already calculated what constitutes a feasible "fair share" for Australia in its recommendation of a carbon budget of 10,100 Mt CO2-e for 2013-2050. (4) AMSA supports this budget, and recommend the government commit to this carbon budget and develop its post-2020 targets based on this budget. We also request complete transparency from the government with regard the methods and models used to determine its carbon budget and emissions reduction targets.
What would be the impact of different targets for health in Australia? Climate Change and Health Climate change is already harming the health and wellbeing of Australians, and poses an even greater risk for our future. Pertinent examples of climate-related health risks in Australia include: (16-19) ● Increased deaths and injuries, particularly among children and the elderly, related to worsening heat waves and other extreme weather events. ● Increased water scarcity and food insecurity from drought and floods. ● Damage to hospitals and health infrastructure from extreme weather events. ● Increased demand on health and emergency services during extreme weather events. ● Spread of food, water, and mosquito-borne infectious diseases, due to rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns and extreme weather events. ● Mental health problems in people and communities affected physically and financially by the impacts of climate change. ● Health consequences of population dislocation as regions become uninhabitable. ● National security threats relating to political destabilisation in regions with food and water insecurity, and mass migration. These overwhelmingly negative impacts on health will be felt disproportionately by the most marginalised groups in Australia, including rural and indigenous Australians, low-income individuals and families, and people with chronic diseases.(20) Hughes and McMichael emphasise that federal government spending on health has increased over the last decade. (20) The recent Intergenerational Report also highlights that government health expenditure per person is projected to double over the next 40 years to a total of 5.5 per cent of GDP in 2055. (18) The report points out that this will be driven by both demographic factors of population growth and population aging, in addition to non-demographic factors including increased prevalence of chronic diseases. (18) This report does not factor in the above impacts of climate change on health, particularly the impacts on the elderly and chronic disease patients, which will drive further economic burden for future generations. More frequent and intense heat waves from climate change will result in more heart attacks, strokes, accidents, heat exhaustion and death. (20) At the national level, reductions in cold related deaths are likely to be significantly outweighed by heat- related deaths by mid-century. (19) For example, under the scenario of unmitigated climate change, the balance of national annual temperature-related deaths was estimated to increase from around 5,800 in 1990 to 6,400 in 2020, 7,900 in 2050 and
17,200 in 2100. (19) By comparison, with effective international climate change mitigation, these estimated numbers of temperature-related deaths would increase by considerably smaller amounts during this century (see figure 1,) Children, the elderly, people with chronic diseases, farmers and other outdoor workers are particularly vulnerable to the heat (20)The health impacts of heat waves will create tremendous addition burden and cost to ambulance services, clinics and hospitals, not to mention lost worker productivity. Figure 1. Projected temperature-related deaths in Australia with and without action on climate change (20) December 2010 and January 2011 flooding in Queensland and tropical cyclones Anthony and Yasi demonstrate the catastrophic effects that extreme weather events can have on life, health and infrastructure. Data from Queensland Health shows the flooding and cyclones caused the cancellation of 1,396 booked elective surgeries as a result of both increased demand on hospitals and staff unavailability; more than 200 patients in areas affected by cyclones were transferred to Brisbane hospitals, leading to a 73% increase in ‘long waits’ for elective surgery; 501 clinical staff deployed by Queensland Health assisted 10,000 people affected by the floods and cyclones between 28 December 2010 and 18 February 2011; over 17,000 tetanus/diphtheria vaccines were distributed to reduce the risk of disease; and Queensland Health’s phone information service, “13 HEALTH”, answered 54,881 calls from flood-affected areas. (21)The flooding also caused costly damage to existing health infrastructure. The Queensland and Federal governments provided $18.1 million over two years to repair damage caused to health facilities. (22) Victims of such extreme weather events are at risk of suffering from long-term poor mental health. To support these communities after the floods and cyclones, $37.8 million was provided over 2011-13 to fund the Queensland Mental Health Natural Disaster Recovery Plan. (22)
With the changing climate, projected increases in frequency, duration and intensity of extreme weather events such as those described for Queensland are expected to cause further injuries, disease and death; they will also cause social disruption and cost billions of dollars in damage. It is estimated that the cost of natural disasters will increase from around $6.3 billion in 2012 to $23 billion by 2050. (20) As previously mentioned, a 'high end scenario' sea level rise of 1.1m is expected to place $266 billion of coastal infrastructure at risk by the end of the century, including 258 police, fire and ambulance stations as well as 75 hospitals and health services. (16) This infrastructure is vital to protect the health and safety of the Australian people. The shifting profile of infectious diseases, including food-borne, water-borne and mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue fever and Ross River will increase demand on healthcare systems in Australia. (17) Without effective action to reduce emissions, mosquitoes bearing dengue fever may spread southwards, increasing the population at risk from 430,000 to 5-8 million Australians by the end of the century. (19) In contrast, with substantial emission reductions, fewer than 1 million people will be at risk by 2100. (19) Ross River virus is currently confined to Queensland, yet cost the Australian public up to $4.9 million in 2007 - a figure that can be expected to rise as the virus moves south. (17,19) In addition to direct health costs, spread of infectious diseases will also reduce workforce productivity, adding to the economic burden, and reducing the international competitiveness of Australian businesses. For example, Brambrick and colleagues estimate that by 2050 there will be between 205,000 and 335,000 new cases of bacterial gastroenteritis in Australia each year, and up to 870,000 new cases by 2100. An additional 335,000 cases could result in $92.3 million in health and surveillance costs and 1.6 million lost workdays. (19) Despite these direct impacts, the greatest impacts will be indirect. A recent report by the University of Melbourne shows that droughts and floods are expected to result in crop failure and livestock loss, significantly impacting the quality and quantity of agricultural production in Australia. (23)This will have significant impacts on the livelihood, prosperity and the physical and mental health of rural Australians. (20) Subsequent increases in food prices may result in nutritional problems, particularly in low-income families and children. (20) The changing climate may render regions of Australia unliveable, resulting in migration and associated mental health problems. (20). Around the world, climate change has the potential to produce millions of climate refugees, with some estimating as many as 200 million climate refugees. (24) This presents a tremendous problem for regional political stability and in international refugee management. The degree of additional health burdens, costs and loss in worker productivity will depend largely on the cumulative efforts of countries around the world to mitigate climate change. It will also depend on the degree to which the Australian government develops costly domestic adaptive strategies. To this end, and in light of the "Health in All Policies" Helsinki statement of the 8th Global Conference on Health Promotion, AMSA
recommends for the Australian government to consider the overwhelmingly negative impacts on health of weak emissions reduction targets. (25) The financial burdens of these health impacts can be minimised if the Australian government commits to our aforementioned recommended emissions reduction targets, consistent with what is required to limit warming to 2 degrees. Health Co-benefits Beyond reduced costs, limiting warming to 2°C also has significant potential for health co-benefits. The recent intergenerational report highlighted the tremendous and accumulating burden of chronic disease on Australia's health budget. (18) Fortunately, strategies to tackle climate change can have the added benefit of improving health, and preventing chronic disease. Coal-fired power stations, motor- vehicles, and intensive livestock agriculture are not only driving climate change by releasing greenhouse gases, but also contribute to poor health through air-pollution, inactive transport, and poor diets respectively. (26) Air pollution can cause cancer, as well as kidney, respiratory, and cardiovascular disease in children and adults. (26, 27) Long-term exposure to urban air pollution accounts for 1.5% of all deaths in Australia and short-term exposure accounts for a further 0.8%. (28) The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering estimates that the health costs of burning coal are equivalent to a national health burden of around $2.6 billion per annum. (11) With the additional consideration of the impacts associated with coal’s contribution to climate change, a report has found that coal production in the Hunter Valley alone contributes a global social cost of $16-66 billion per annum. (29) The annual health cost of pollution from cars, trucks and other modes of fossil-fuelled transport in Australia is estimated at around $2.7 billion. (30) Thus policies that reduce reliance on fossil fuel combustion for energy and transport offer potentially large savings in the health budget. Many of the non-communicable diseases that cause a high burden of disease in Australia are associated with a carbon intensive lifestyle. (31,32) Physical inactivity and diets high in animal products can contribute to the development of diseases such as obesity, diabetes, ischaemic heart disease, hypertension, stroke, dementia, depression, breast cancer and bowel cancer, many of which are or can become chronic diseases. (26) There are particularly strong causative associations between the drivers of climate change and obesity, and policies for reducing the emissions in food systems would likely improve diets. (33) In 2007-08, three in five adults and one in four children were either overweight or obese. In 2008, health system costs, loss of productivity and carer costs attributable to obesity in Australia amounted to $58.2 billion. (34, 35) The prevalence of obesity has grown, and data from the 2011-12 Australian Health Survey suggests 63% of Australian adults and 25% of children are
now overweight or obese – a trend with significant implications for health systems costs. (34) Improving the design of cities and towns to make it easier to get around on foot and bike has the potential for substantial benefits to our health, economy and greenhouse gas emissions. Physical inactivity causes over 13,000 deaths each year in Australia, and increases the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, breast and bowel cancer, depression and anxiety. (36) It is estimated that the UK National Health Service (NHS) spends $US 5,000 per minute treating diseases that could be prevented by regular physical activity. (20) Australian modelling estimates that a 10% reduction in physical inactivity would result in 6,000 fewer incident cases of disease, 2,000 fewer deaths, and a significant decrease in disability in the community, translating to 114,000 additional working days and a $96 million reduction in health sector costs annually. (37) Support for expansion of active transport infrastructure would confer significant reductions in greenhouse gases and in costs to healthcare systems. Current cycling levels are estimated to save the Australian health system $22.72 million annually. (13) A New Zealand study found that a 5% increase in short bicycle trips (less than 7 km) could have annual net health savings of NZ $200 million. (14) Regarding diet, reducing animal product consumption by 30 per cent would lead to a 15 per cent reduction in the burden of ischaemic heart disease. (38) Reductions in red meat consumption in Australia from the (current) average of 100g to 50g per person per day have been predicted to reduce annual emissions from livestock by 13.3 MtCO2-e (about 22 per cent) as well as cutting the incidence of colorectal cancer by 11 per cent. (38) Thus changes to agriculture to discourage excessive consumption of animal products can improve public health and reduce demands and associated costs on the healthcare system. (39) Many of the market-based mechanisms to address climate change have an added benefit for improving human health. The International Monetary Fund calculated that a price on CO2 emissions in Australia would result in savings of $11.5 per tonne of CO2 due to domestic co-benefits alone, particularly health co-benefits from reduced air pollution (leaving aside the global climate benefits). (15) The monetised health co-benefits of mitigation policies will likely offset a substantial fraction of the mitigation costs (23), thereby reducing the financial risk of committing to ambitious emissions reduction targets. In addition, climate policies with health co- benefits have the potential to increase worker productivity by lowering the opportunity costs of reduced utilisation of human capital due to illness. (22) A healthy workforce is more productive and gives Australian business a competitive advantage. To this end, AMSA recommends that the government recognise the significant potential for health co-benefits with strong climate mitigation. Subsequent savings in the health sector may
reduce the cost for the Australian government to commit to our aforementioned recommended emissions reduction targets. Which further policies complementary to the Australian Government’s direct action approach should be considered to achieve Australia’s post-2020 target and why? AMSA acknowledges that there is no single policy measure can completely prevent dangerous climate change, and therefore recommends employing a range of mitigation techniques in order to meaningfully reduce emissions. Investment in Renewable Energy Reducing the carbon intensity of electricity generation is a cost efficient mitigation strategy. Decarbonisation of electricity generation occurs markedly more rapidly than in industry building and transport sectors, and is therefore an accessible and realistic objective for policy. Expansion of Australia’s renewable energy consumption is a powerful means of reducing the more severe health effects of coal-fired power and other fossil fuel generated electricity, and meaningfully contributing to mitigation of climate change whilst strengthening Australia’s sustainable economic development trajectory. Australia has abundant renewable energy resources, including the highest average solar radiation per square metre compared with all other continents. Australia has a very large and widely distributed renewable resource base, which includes wind, solar, bioenergy, geothermal, wave and tide as well as hydro resources. (40) Legislated in 2001, the Renewable Energy Target (RET) is a successful means of increasing renewable energy development and use in Australia. This is evidenced in the near doubling of our renewable energy capacity from 10,650MW in 2001 to 19,700MW in 2012. (4) The achievements of the RET since its implementation in 2001 are clear indications that any costs to the scheme are negligible in comparison with the economic benefits generated. The scheme has already attracted $20 billion in investments, created over 24,000 jobs and brought wholesale electricity prices $10 per megawatt hour lower. (41) Increasingly innovative and readily available technologies such as high voltage transmission systems and the creation of synthetic liquid fuels are making it viable for us to envisage the export of these renewable fuels. (42) Support for the Renewable Energy industry attract investments both locally and internationally that will secure jobs for Australians across a broad range of skill sets. These jobs will provide employment in rural, regional and metropolitan areas.
Further, as the changing economic climates and international obligations drive a restructuring of emissions-intensive industries, we can expect to see increasing rates of mental illness particularly in low skilled and regional workforces who will stand to lose income security. (43) Increased economic participation as a consequence of the 18,400 new jobs created under the RET between now and 2020 will transform the lives of thousands of Australians as they are granted new avenues of employment. (41) It must be noted that the world is powering ahead with renewable energy generation. In 2014, clean energy investment grew in China (32%), the US (8%), Japan (12%), Germany (3%) and the UK (3%). (44) However due to policy uncertainty in 2014 clean energy investment however fell 35% in Australia, with investment in large-scale renewable energy falling by a staggering 88%. (44) Pricing Carbon Emissions Placing a price on carbon emissions provides financial incentives for reduction of GHG emissions across all sectors, by imposing a levy on each unit of undesirable activity. (45) In September of 2014, 73 nations including China, South Africa and the European Union formally indicated their support of pricing carbon emissions. (46) As described by Garnaut, pricing of carbon may involve a fixed-price mechanism whereby the market decides to what extent carbon emissions are reduced. A floating price sees permits distributed among the market to the total value of a set level of emissions - the prices are set by the market and may be traded amongst businesses. (47) Tax policies specifically aimed at reducing GHG emissions are a powerful means of weakening the link between GHG emissions and gross domestic product. Collecting tax from those who contribute to Australia’s GHG emissions is also an effective mechanism of raising revenue, which can be directed into supporting social institutions or into innovation. (47) Australia’s 2012 implementation of a carbon price illustrated Australia’s capacity to adopt such a mechanism, which should be reinstated as a matter of critical urgency. Emissions Trading Schemes International emissions trading schemes are central to the development of an effective global carbon market that will foster financially responsible abatement of GHG emissions. (45) Emissions trading schemes establish aggregate limits on GHG emissions from specific sources, and require sources to hold permits equal to their actual emissions. Permits may be traded amongst tradable sources. (45) The formally legislated Australian emissions trading scheme - which was intended to “provide Australian businesses greater opportunities to reduce their carbon footprints at low cost”, was instigated with a commendable rationale. The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has had demonstrable effect in reducing EU carbon emissions. (45)
Elimination of subsidies to fossil fuel industries Subsidies of fossil fuels at both state and federal levels, such as accelerated depreciation and the diesel fuel rebate for mining, must be eliminated. Fuel tax credits, excise concessions for aviation, accelerated depreciation for oil, gas and petroleum extraction cost Australian taxpayers $11 billion annually. (48) The provision of subsidies for GHG-related activities undermines other actions to mitigate climate change. They represent a distortion of the market by artificially stimulating fossil fuel industries and sectors. (45) Implicit subsidies created by not pricing the cost of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution are estimated to be worth $23 billion annually. (49) The International Monetary Fund found that removing fossil fuel subsidies and reflecting costs of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in energy prices would reduce global emissions by 13%. (49) A G20 commitment was made in 2009 to eliminate “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies, which have not been addressed. (50) Regulation and investment to promote energy efficiency It is imperative that there is support for regulation of energy efficiency across all sectors. Regulation and investment should promote efficiency of capital equipment and development of low-pollution technologies, processes and products for use in housing, community services and industry. Government efforts “supporting the establishment of standards, programs and innovative practices to improve energy efficiency and providing Australian households and businesses with economical solutions to live and work more sustainably”, as articulated in the 2009 National Strategy on Energy Efficiency (51),should be commended. Investment in Carbon Capture and Storage Initiatives Carbon Capture involves capturing C02 emissions, liquefying it and pumping it into geological storage. While there is merit in efforts to enhance carbon sequestration at the point of emission and through natural processes, the use of carbon sequestration methods independent of efforts to reduce GHG emissions will not be effective in climate change mitigation. AMSA recognises that a range of policy measures must be instigated as tools to achieve any emissions reduction target. As outlined in the above sections, mitigation of climate change has significant co-benefits for protecting human health and wellbeing, and should be evaluated in terms of their economic and social efficiency.
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