Managing and Responding to Climate Risks in Healthcare

The Council of Presidents of Medical Colleges (CPMC) convened a Roundtable forum on Thursday 17 May 2018 inviting discussion on the risks posed by climate change and more frequent and extreme weather events to health and healthcare services across Australia; and the additional burden this places on the sector’s capacity to continue to deliver high quality and sustainable healthcare.

The Victorian heatwave of 2009, which resulted in over 370 deaths1, represents a very real and deeply concerning example that these issues remain poorly understood by many planners, providers, and policymakers. Participants acknowledged that the health sector needs to do more to prepare for the increasing impact on health services and play its part in reducing its own contribution to carbon pollution.

Roundtable participants received an address from Dr David Pencheon OBE, founding director of the NHS England Sustainable Development Unit (SDU), which succeeded in reducing the carbon emissions of the NHS by 11% from 2007 to 2015, representing a saving of £1.85 billion while also increasing services by 18%.

Dr Pencheon cited these landmark developments in the United Kingdom as the first steps in a transition towards a more sustainable and resilient healthcare system, and said “It is vital for healthcare services to address the nature of energy use of the healthcare sector as well as implementing effective risk management strategies.”

CPMC noted the urgent need for more energy efficient operations in Australian healthcare services, with recent findings from the Lancet indicating that Australia’s healthcare system now contributes to more than 7% of the nation’s carbon footprint, and that hospitals and pharmaceutical companies were together responsible for two-thirds of this carbon footprint.

Medical colleges and health organisations have played a critical leadership role in raising awareness of the health impacts of climate change internationally and in Australia and New Zealand, with the Climate and Health Alliance process and release of the National Strategy on Climate, Health and Well-Being for Australia3 and reflections in the Medical Journal of Australia.

CPMC agreed on the need for more sustainable healthcare and evidence based strategies for management of climate change and extreme weather related risks to health and healthcare infrastructure, operations and personnel.

CPMC will explore ways to further engage in the ongoing discussion.


Mr Philip Truskett, AM Chair of CPMC


Colleges Endorsing this Communique

  • Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators
  • Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
  • Royal Australasian College of Physicians
  • Australasian College of Dermatologists
  • Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
  • Australasian College of Sport and Exercise Physicians
  • Australasian College for Emergency Medicine
  • Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists
  • Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
  • Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine
  • Australia and New Zealand College of Anesthetists


Ms Angela Magarry CEO, CPMC