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ESG

Health experts lock horns with NSW government over energy policy

Health Industry Hub | September 12, 2023 |

ESG: In a powerful call to action, ten prominent health organisations, collectively representing over 20,000 dedicated health professionals across Australia, have jointly issued an open letter to the NSW Premier, Chris Minns. The missive, delivered with a sense of urgency, underscores the critical importance of maintaining the currently scheduled closure date for the Eraring coal power station.

Health workers are rallying behind the plea, emphasising the dire consequences of any extension beyond the 2025 deadline on the wellbeing of NSW residents. Their resounding message: invest more in renewable energy to safeguard public health.

The organisations at the forefront of this appeal include the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners NSW & ACT Faculty, Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Doctors for the Environment Australia, Healthy Futures, the Climate and Health Alliance, Australasian Epidemiological Association, Public Health Association of Australia, Asthma Australia, Lung Foundation Australia, and the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand. Together, they wield a tremendous influence, with their combined reach touching millions of Australians living with health conditions.

In their open letter, these healthcare leaders sound the alarm on the pernicious health risks associated with coal power generation. The letter highlights the toxic pollutants emitted by Eraring and other coal power stations, capable of causing a litany of health issues, from cardiovascular disease to asthma exacerbations, lung cancers, and diabetes. The impact even extends to more vulnerable populations, including infants subjected to intrauterine growth restriction and preterm birth.

Professor Charlotte Hespe, Chair of the RACGP NSW & ACT Faculty, stated “RACGP supports the call to Premier Minns and his Government to address greenhouse gas emissions from Eraring and other coal power stations. Greenhouse gases are a major driver of climate change, which threatens every Australian’s health by increasing the risk of potentially deadly heatwaves, bushfires and storms, affecting food and water supplies and increasing the spread of infectious diseases.”

Dr Nicholas Williams, Co-Chair of Doctors for the Environment Australia NSW, firmly echoed the sentiment, declaring, “If we are to improve our health and protect ourselves from future climate impacts, we must stop burning coal.”

Associate Professor Brigid Lynch, President of the Australasian Epidemiological Association, further underscored the gravity of the situation, noting, “Epidemiologists have been reporting the health consequences of exposure to pollutants from coal-fired power stations for decades. Epidemiological modelling now foresees a growing burden of poor health and premature mortality directly linked to climate change.”

In agreement, Associate Professor Kate McBride, President of the NSW Branch of the Public Health Association of Australia, stressed “The NSW Government cannot justify keeping the power station open at the expense of taxpayers and has no time to waste in retiring coal-fired power and replacing it with renewable energy sources. Urgent action is needed by the NSW Government, or the health consequences of climate change will worsen.”

The collective call from these dedicated health professionals reverberates with urgency, imploring the NSW Government to prioritise public health and accelerate the transition to renewable energy.

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