WEHI supports action to combat climate change

28 October 2021
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WEHI accepts the scientific consensus on climate change and recognises it as an issue of national and global concern, requiring urgent action.  

As an organisation, WEHI is committed to advocate for the mitigation of global warming. We will also achieve carbon neutrality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with our operations and enable research that will address the health impacts of climate change.  

WEHI’s actions to combat climate change are driven by our first Environmental Management and Sustainability Strategy 2021-2023, in response to our Strategic Plan 2019-2023. Strategy development has been led by WEHI’s Environmental Management and Sustainability Committee and has evolved through consultation with experts in environmental management, as well as our staff and students. It has been endorsed by WEHI’s Board and leadership. 

A real and serious issue  

Aerial photo of Parkville, with WEHI in the foreground
WEHI’s Parkville campus sits on the edge of Melbourne’s
central business district

WEHI’s Board, leadership, staff and students overwhelmingly accept the views of scientific experts on climate change, including the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We agree that the evidence is consistent and indisputable, that the earth is becoming hotter because of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, including CO2 and methane.   

It is indisputable that human activities are causing climate change, making extreme climate events, including heat waves, heavy rainfall, and droughts, more frequent and severe, including in Australia.  

As one of Australia’s leading medical research institutes, WEHI is concerned about the negative impacts of climate change on physical and mental health. These impacts are particularly felt by disenfranchised, marginalised and disadvantaged communities. They will become more profound for us, for our children and our grandchildren unless greenhouse gas emissions are curtailed.  

Urgent action is needed 

The climate, and our future health, depend on the decisions we make now. WEHI views strong, rapid and sustained reductions in emissions of CO2, methane and other greenhouse gases as being necessary for containing global heating and climate change.   

WEHI stands with other like-minded groups to advocate for achieving meaningful reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions. At a national level, WEHI believes that Australia needs to set and achieve meaningful national emission-reduction targets. As well as making a contribution to the global efforts to reduce emissions, action by Australia will provide a credible example to more populous nations whose total emissions will make a profound difference to achieving global goals.  

Supporting those most impacted  

As an organisation that works collaboratively and determinedly to make and translate medical discoveries for the benefit of humanity, WEHI also advocates for a fair and just transition to a low-carbon world in a way that unites, rather than divides, our community.  

Within Australia, WEHI supports a robust but evidence-based discussion about the best pathway to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ensuring that diverse voices are heard — including those of First Nations people in Australia.  

We recognise that some measures will disproportionately impact communities that are reliant on high-emitting industries, such as mining and agriculture. WEHI supports a transition to a lower-carbon economy that enables these communities to flourish now and into the future. We also call for foreign aid to be increased and targeted to nations, especially in our region, to mitigate the immediate impacts of climate change, assist in the transition to increasingly low-emitting economies, and promote prosperity and therefore global security.  

WEHI’s actions on climate change  

As well as advocacy, as a medical research institute WEHI is committed to supporting and facilitating its scientists to collaborate on research that will mitigate the health impacts of global warming.   

WEHI will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our operations. We will:  

  • Measure, reduce and report on WEHI’s direct and indirect carbon emissions annually from 2022 (i.e. reporting 2021 activities in 2022).  
  • Transition to carbon neutrality with respect to emissions either directly released by the institute (scope 1), or released as a result of our energy consumption (scope 2), by mid-2023.   
  • Develop a process to become carbon-negative for scope 1, 2 and 3 (indirect non-energy purchases) emissions and report our plans and progress on an annual basis.   
  • Resource and implement waste reduction strategies and improve waste management in all areas of our operations, reporting on these efforts by the end of 2022.   
  • Transition the investments in WEHI’s endowment, across all sectors of the economy, to companies that have plans and are progressing toward a net-zero carbon emission target. This transition will be reported annually from 2022.   

As Australia’s oldest and one of the larger medical research institutes, WEHI will also enhance its collaboration within the medical research sector to decrease the sector’s environmental impact. We will share information on how we are reducing our organisation’s greenhouse gas emissions, and also be receptive to the learnings of other organisations in this area.

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