AASW’s Policy Position on Climate Change
"Climate change is the greatest challenge that we face and as social workers we are united in our call for immediate action from governments in Australia, and across the world. The changes confronting our environment because of global warming are already profound and extensive, making climate policy an urgent responsibility for governments"
AASW Declares a Climate Emergency, 2019
In line with our strategic plan and the Code of Ethics the AASW is deeply committed to working towards a sustainable and socially just environment through individual, cultural and structural change. As social workers, we work with communities who are hardest hit by climate change and we appreciate that while climate change is affecting the entire population, the social, health and economic burden is falling most heavily on already vulnerable people.
|October 2022||Position statement: AASW Climate Action Statement|
|November 2021||Position statement: AASW Climate Action Statement|
|October 2019||AASW declares a climate emergency|
|2017||AASW and Climate and Health Alliance Declaration on Climate Change|
The worsening impacts of climate change are undeniable. From increased rates of extinctions, heatwaves, bushfires, floods and droughts, the impacts are real and already having a significant effect on the health and wellbeing of individuals, groups and communities in Australia and across the world. As social workers, we work with communities who are hardest hit by climate change and we appreciate that while climate change is affecting the entire population, the social, health and economic burden is falling most heavily on already marginalised people.
Climate change is a social justice issue
Climate change is inherently a social justice issue as the effects compound and exacerbate existing inequalities. There are impacts across every aspect of life, including increased food prices and electricity costs, failing public infrastructure, and inundation of coastal areas (where the majority of Australians live) and loss of culturally significant areas for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. There are also the well documented impacts on mental health and increased rates of family violence and abuse.
Social workers call to action
Social work is a profession committed to enhancing collective wellbeing and it has become increasingly concerned about the inequities caused by the global environmental crisis. Current and future impacts, particularly climate variability, involve large scale social, environmental and economic costs mean that this is a core issue for all social workers, regardless of field of practice.
Climate change is the greatest collective challenge that we face and as social workers we are united in our call for immediate action from governments in Australia, and across the world.
We need urgent, systemic and inclusive action from governments while we still have time. The Australian government has committed Australia to achieving the climate action targets set out in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement that limit global warming to a rise of 1.5C degrees, but it is failing to achieve these goals, as fast as required.
We call on the federal Government, and governments around the world, to commit to stronger targets and to cut climate pollution this decade. The knowledge and solutions exist to make effective reduction of the negative outcome of climate change, it only requires commitment.
Prioritising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges and wisdom
Climate action must prioritise listening to and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (and First Nations peoples all over the world) as they have lived sustainably with the land for over thousands of years. Pursuing climate action requires a shift from mere acknowledgment of First Nations’ knowledges towards true partnerships and deep listening to gain an understanding of the values, cultures and traditions on the local lands where we live and work. Developing respectful and reflective relationships are integral for dismantling the legacies of colonialism and for avoiding a simplistic understanding and appropriation of global First Nation knowledges.
Governments are coming together at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) to discuss the climate crisis, in what many believe to be the world's last chance to get runaway climate change under control. This is a crucial time for governments across the world to come together and take serious action to address this existential threat. Having access to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a fundamental human right and something that governments worldwide are failing to achieve. As social workers we call on urgent and action and will continue to advocate for inclusive policies that assure a healthy and sustainable environment for generations to come.
AASW Policy Actions
The AASW is engaging on climate action through various forms including:
- The AASW signed THE SAFE CLIMATE DECLARATION, This Declaration calls for a new approach to climate action in Australia, a response to match the scale of the threat as climate-warming impacts escalate across Australia and around the world.
- 2021, the AASW took part in the development of the 'Healthy, Regenerative & Just' roadmap, which is endorsed by 50+ health / medical groups to reduce emissions + inequality, and improve health. Dr Sebastian Cordoba is one of the co authors.
- Leading health groups call on government to address climate health impacts - Mirage News
- 2020 Submission to the COVID 19 Inquiry calling for urgent climate action.
- In 2019, the AASW joined international colleagues through the IFSW to declare a climate emergency (globally and locally, see below). We renewed our call for immediate climate action to address the most pressing issue of our time.
- The release of the AASW & Climate and Health Alliance Declaration on Climate Change.
- Being a member of Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) , which is an alliance of organisations and people in the health sector who wish to see the threat of climate change and ecological degradation to human health addressed through prompt policy action.
- Continued advocacy to the federal government trough several submissions including the most recent Federal Election, Sustainable Development Goals inquiry and most recently a submission to the Climate Health WA Inquiry
- Advocacy to government through our work as part of the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) and several submissions.
- As part of CAHA, the AASW joined 22 groups representing health and medical professionals in Australia issuing a joint call to act on a “public health emergency” caused by smoke from the catastrophic bushfire season in New South Wales. (The Guardian, Governments must act on public health emergency from bushfire smoke, 16/12/19)
- Attended the Climate Strike across Australia and encouraged members to take part across the country
- We have also engaged in extensive SDG advocacy at numerous levels including representing the social work profession at the United Nations calling for climate action
- Our SDGs webpage has more information including our SDG student placement, policy actions and the SDG Action Group.
- AASW Senior Policy Advisor Dr Sebastian Cordoba has been appointed the International Federation of Social Workers United Nations Commission as the Asia Pacific Representative, advocating for social justice, human rights and achieving the SDGs