MEDIA RELEASE: The immense risks and impacts of climate change were starkly highlighted at SACOSS' Building a Climate Resilient Community Sector conference yesterday, and the community sector peak body is calling for urgent State Government action in response.
In the spotlight were the significant and indisputable health impacts of climate change, including those from heatwaves, fire and smoke, all of which can be fatal; the impacts of drought, fire and floods on food and water supplies; and the significant toll of mental health impacts, including anxiety and grief about the climate crisis.
Community service providers described the significant risks their organisations are grappling with, the need for emergency planning, and the things that can and have gone right - and wrong - in recent fires and floods.
Some of the hottest and driest parts of our state are home to Aboriginal communities. As our climate heats up further, they will be at the front line confronting the implications for health, housing, food and water security, and cultural practice.
Of course, when a natural disaster strikes, insurance is typically seen as a safety net. But what about people who cannot access or afford it? The results can be devastating for families and communities.
"There is a huge and very urgent need for action on climate change," said SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley. ”It affects every one of us, and we need all levels of government to really step up. That means fair, fast, inclusive action. We must not continue to fail on this: the costs to lives, communities and our future are simply too high.
"The community sector has a critical role to play. People working in the sector see the impacts first-hand, particularly for people who are older, or living with disabilities; people who are grappling with health issues already; and people who are experiencing poverty. These people will rarely have the resources to take the steps needed to protect themselves.”
"We understand our State Government is stepping up to declare a climate emergency. We see that emergency. Our communities are living that emergency. And it demands action. Decisive, powerful action.
"There are many facets to what is needed. And while the impacts of climate change stretch across our whole community, SACOSS' big fear is that we fail to plan for and support those most at risk, most vulnerable, and least able to protect themselves and their families.
"SACOSS will be taking these concerns to the new SA State Government, and urging for the community sector to have a seat at the table to discuss our state's climate change response, and how our communities can be better supported to grapple with some of the huge challenges ahead.
"We have also outlined some practical steps to take now, that would make a big difference in some key areas.
"Good intentions and earnest words won't cut it. If we really want to see measures to help people at risk, there needs to be money on the table. So we are calling for a fund to address issues for those most at risk. We also have a range of other calls for practical steps in relation to insurance; energy efficiency; and drinking water security for regional and remote SA.
"A safer future for all demands real action now - our message to the State Government is let's see that action, before it's too late. We are already much too far behind.
"Climate change is a reality and whilst we need to take steps against it, we also need to get ready. It is simply critical that we better prepare, adapt and respond to climate emergencies and disasters and create more climate resilient organisations, communities and people," Mr Womersley stated.
Amongst a range of other desirable measures, SACOSS is calling for:
- A disaster resilience and risk reduction fund (to be managed by the People at
Risk in Emergencies Action Group) with an investment of $5m over 4 years.
- A percentage-based concession scheme for home, contents, and vehicle insurance for people on low incomes, modelled on the existing cost of living concessions.
- Minimum energy efficiency standards for private and public rental properties, and
mandatory disclosure of energy efficiency ratings for all rental properties. Also, a targeted energy efficiency program for public and community housing.
- Action to fix drinking water supply to regional and remote South Australia, with a range of specific measures suggested.
- A representative of the non-government health and community services sector on the Premier’s Climate Change Council.