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 commitment 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.
|2017||AASW and Climate and Health Alliance Declaration on Climate Change|
|October 2019||AASW declares a climate emergency (see below)|
Posistion Statement: AASW declares a climate emergency
Australian social workers have joined social workers worldwide in declaring a climate emergency
Climate change is the greatest challenge that we face and as social workers, and 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.
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.
A significant number of environmental disasters as a result of climate change are occurring in the Asia-Pacific region (especially Pacific island nations) and the burden on communities and the consequences of this make it very much an issue for Australian social workers.
The socioeconomic status of individuals, groups and communities is directly linked to their ability to adapt to increased extreme weather events like heatwaves and floods. As we continue to see heat records being broken, increased electricity prices alone can further compound poverty and disadvantage.
For social workers, climate change is also a social justice issue. People's right to a sustainable environment is identified in our professional Code of Ethics.
Australia is failing to address climate change as evidenced by the continued drop in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals global rankings. Australia is now ranked 37th in the world SDG Index (down from 26th) and behind New Zealand, Canada, the USA and the UK.
Climate action is needed urgently, and we need to begin by listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as they have lived sustainably with the land for over 40,000 years.
In declaring a climate emergency, the AASW renews its call for immediate government action to reduce emissions and meet our SDG and IPCC commitments.
AASW Policy Actions
The AASW is engaging on climate action through various forms including:
- In 2020, 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.
- 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