Page 3368 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 19 October 2022

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24 applications under the wood heater replacement program this year compared to just five in the previous year. And there has been a 904 per cent increase in traffic to the website, and a 255 per cent increase in traffic to the wood heater replacement program page. There are plans to continue refining these initiatives, including the possibility of the no-cost replacement of wood heating for low-income households, and targeted campaigns in Tuggeranong and Belconnen, which have a higher proportion of wood heaters. In the ACT we are already at the forefront, nationally, in addressing woodfire smoke pollution via these types of initiatives.

The ACT is also pushing hard on building energy efficiency, and, as Minister for Sustainable Building and Construction, I am really happy to be a part of the progress that we have made. We know that human health is significantly impacted by indoor environments that are freezing in winter and baking in summer. For example, studies of the effects of improved cooling in hospitals on patient health showed that after cooling systems were installed, there were measurable improvements in blood pressure and respiratory rates and benefits in cardiac function. Patients with chronic diseases, such as congestive heart failure and asthma, also benefited from cooling.

At the other end of the spectrum, one study conducted in almost 20 countries found that there seemed to be a significant connection between consistent exposure to high temperatures and increased levels of depression and anxiety. By including more stringent energy efficiency requirements in the National Construction Code, we can not only lower our emissions but ensure that fewer people will have to struggle with the negative effects, on both physical and mental health, of extreme temperatures in their homes. The ACT will be bringing in these new requirements from October 2023 onwards, giving the construction industry time to adapt.

The NCC also provides a mix of practical solutions for homes that can be customised to the climate and the location of each build. As well, from early next year, rental homes in the ACT with a ceiling insulation level of R2 or less will be required to upgrade to R5, with a phase-in period of several years to spread insulation industry demand and allow rental providers time to make the changes. The new regulation is designed to target the worst-performing rentals, since it is estimated that around 60 per cent of rentals already meet or exceed the standard. There is a lot of technical and practical detail to this—which I will not go into now—which will ensure that there are no unforeseen downsides for stakeholders.

I am glad that we have this positive progress to report, but I am also aware of how much more needs to be done, and how much of it is hard—in fact, how much of it is impossible, to some extent. I am often confronted by the fact that we are just one small jurisdiction trying to battle what is a massive global problem—and some are still denying that it is even happening. Yes, we can address the mental health challenge of growing climate grief through local mental health programs, but on our own we cannot solve what is causing the grief in the first place.

But we can do our part. There is no doubt that the ACT has been a leader on the climate action front. We need to keep leading, and we will. Enhancing our efforts to address the health impacts of climate change is a vital part of this.

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