Climate Change and Environment
NSWNMA works towards zero emissions
The Association has implemented new measures to reduce its carbon footprint.
In April this year, the NSWNMA began printing The Lamp on paper produced from sustainable forests and carbon-neutral production processes, and wrapping the magazine in recyclable and biodegradable film.
This change is just one of many the Association is implementing to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 75 per cent by 2030, with the aim of reaching net-zero emissions by 2035.
The Association has introduced a range of measures to meet the targets, including purchasing hybrid cars, trialling an electric car, progressively replacing office lighting with lower energy-consuming LEDs, and making videoconferencing a regular feature of organising.
Reducing the NSWNMA’s carbon footprint is in line with the target set by the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA), a coalition of health-sector organisations working for climate action and sustainable health care.
General Secretary Brett Holmes said, “As an active member of CAHA, we should commit to achieving CAHA’s target for reducing GHG emissions.”
As part of its emission reduction strategy, the NSWNMA Council recently approved the purchase and installation of solar panels on the roof of its Waterloo headquarters. It is estimated the panels will supply 19 per cent of the building’s energy needs.
Brett said that the “estimated cost of solar panels will be recovered in reduced energy bills within 5.8 years”.
To meet the balance of the office’s energy usage, the NSWNMA Council also recently approved the purchase of carbon-offset power.
Leading by example
The green plan for the Association’s future was developed after an internal environmental committee conducted an environmental audit to assess the organisation’s carbon footprint. The committee began its work in 2019 and found that the Association reduced its emission of all gases by 33 per cent between 2019 and 2020.
Much of this reduction could be attributed to the impact of the pandemic, with Association staff and members taking fewer flights, and more staff working from home.
“Some of the changes introduced during the pandemic, such as video conferencing, will be incorporated into the way we work going forward,” Brett said. “The challenge for us will be making changes without disrupting services to members and/or negatively impacting staff.”
Brett said reducing emissions will need to be balanced with demands of strengthening the union, as staff need to travel to consult with members, and to meet with non-members.
“We need to make the Association more sustainable and closer to achieving carbon neutrality, but we can’t dispense with democracy. It is especially important that regional delegates can attend Association meetings in person.”
A motion recently approved by the NSWNMA Council will see the Association purchasing GHG offsets for all air travel.
To meet its targets, the Association is also moving its car fleet to more environmentally friendly vehicles, with the purchase of 12 hybrid vehicles in 2020, and the recent trial of an electric car.
“We will need to find ways of reducing our emissions and at the same time ensure our services to members and our democratic decision-making processes are at least maintained, if not enhanced,” Brett said.
“Adopting and vigorously pursuing these targets is consistent with our strategic plan, and our organisational values of leading by example and being a role model for sustainable health care.”
‘We need to make the Association more sustainable and closer to achieving carbon neutrality.’ – Brett Holmes, General Secretary
“It is important to practise what we preach”
Sarah Ellyard, secretary of the Macquarie Hospital NSWNMA branch and a climate movement activist, welcomes the Association’s commitment to reducing its environmental footprint.
“The Association is saying all the right things about climate change and climate action, and making the link between climate change and health, and I think it is really important that the union practises what it preaches. It is the right thing to do, but it also shows leadership by the union on the issue.
“There are so many ways that climate and health are connected. Climate change exacerbates chronic health conditions and, in addition, climate change is changing the spread of a range of infectious diseases.
“New pandemics can emerge as a result of climate change, and pre-existing diseases can spread further from the equator. Air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, meanwhile, impacts health, food supply and water supply.
“The link between climate and health can’t be highlighted enough. The WHO recognises that climate change is the biggest threat to health this century. There is going to be massive pressure on the health system going forward, if the system isn’t strengthened and given the additional resources it needs, and I think there is a real need to raise awareness amongst the health profession and the wider public.”