AMA President, Dr Bill Glasson, said today that the health of all Australians is the big loser in the Government’s Energy White Paper.
Dr Glasson said the failure of the Government to set out a long-term target to cut greenhouse emissions and to boost Australia’s renewable energy production is disappointing, especially its implication for human health.
“The Government’s announcement reinforces our dependency on fossil fuels and will serve to greatly increase the amount of diesel fuel emissions in our cities,” Dr Glasson said.
“The most alarming announcement was the change to the diesel fuel grants scheme, which poses a serious immediate risk to public health in our cities.
“Making diesel cheaper will bring more diesel fumes into our cities as businesses will be encouraged to switch to diesel vehicles rather than run on petrol or LPG.
“The proposal to cut the price of diesel fails to recognise the increased health costs of finer particles in our air. The move goes against the international trend to increase taxes on this and other dirty fuel.
“In Europe, the number of deaths caused by vehicle emissions was estimated to be more than twice the number of deaths from road accidents. In Australia deaths caused by vehicle emissions at least equals the number of deaths caused by road accidents.
“The Howard Government has made dirty fuels cheaper, our air more polluted and potentially caused the death of many more Australians.
“The AMA has been calling on the Federal Government to ratify and implement the Kyoto protocol for two years.
“The failure of this Government to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions has the potential to cause significant global public health problems
“The AMA believes that an effective emissions control program could be instituted without having a negative impact on the Australian economy.
“This can best be achieved by combining energy conservation with new alternative technologies that would reduce dependency on fossil fuels.
“The AMA recognises the importance of developing renewable energy sources as a means of affecting global climate change and its health ramifications. The Government's failure to increase the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target is a national shame.
“The AMA repeats its calls for the Federal Government to set a Mandatory Renewable Energy Target of 10 per cent by the year 2010.
“The AMA believes it is possible to mitigate the consequential health effects of climate change through improved energy efficiency, clean energy production and other emission reduction steps.
“The global impact of climate change is difficult to predict and measure. But signs are clearly emerging that in addition to the immense economic and ecological costs projected to result from climate change, there is also the potential for major and unpredictable adverse public health impacts,” Dr Glasson said.
The AMA supports research, education, prevention, monitoring, and assessment relating to the public health issues that may arise from climate change.