Health professionals condemn government bailout of Solid Energy

Health professionals are highly critical of the recent move by the New Zealand government to bail out Solid Energy. The bailout involves a direct cash injection of $25 million of taxpayer money and another $130 million in loans.

“It is counterproductive for health and social goals, as well as representing extremely poor economic management”, claims Dr Rhys Jones from OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council.

“Climate change is the number one threat to public health in the 21st century”, says Dr Jones. “In order to avoid the worst effects, we need to dramatically reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. This requires us to leave the overwhelming majority of known fossil fuel reserves, including coal, in the ground.”

Dr Jones continues: “What this means is that the writing is on the wall for coal, and that the future lies in renewable energy any other scenario spells disaster for humanity. Countries that become leaders in clean energy technology will prosper, while those that cling to outdated fossil fuel-based economies will fail. The current New Zealand government insists on taking us down the latter path, which is economically irresponsible, if not suicidal.”

“The bailout is the exact opposite of what the government should be doing to achieve health, social and environmental goals”, argues Dr Jones. “Burning fossil fuels, particularly coal, results in serious risks to human health. On the other hand, actions to reduce emissions and promote low carbon lifestyles can have enormous gains for health and wellbeing.”

The bailout decision comes just days after the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest scientific consensus report. The report highlighted, with even greater certainty than before, the threat of climate change, and reiterated the urgent need for substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

“Despite the clarity and magnitude of the threat of climate change, the New Zealand government has failed to take appropriate action” says Dr Jones. “This bailout represents yet another attempt to bury our heads in the sand and continue with a doomed business-as-usual model.”

Dr Jones believes that rather than subsidising fossil fuel exploitation, the government should be investing in forward-looking economic development. “Global investment in new renewable energy is already overtaking investment in fossil fuels and nuclear combined. The technology is here now, we can do this easily we just have to make the right choices. Reliance on coal mining is not what towns like those on the West Coast need. What is needed is investment in a resilient economic future.”

ENDS 

OraTaiao: The NZ Climate & Health Council

www.orataiao.org.nz

Media spokesperson

Dr Rhys Jones, Co-convenor
OraTaiao: NZ Climate & Health Council
Tel. 021 411 743; Email:
rg.jones@auckland.ac.nz

Other contacts

Liz Springford, co-Media Liaison
OraTaiao: NZ Climate & Health Council
Mob. 021 0617 638; Email: liz.springford @gmail.com

Dr Scott Metcalfe, co-Media Liaison
OraTaiao: NZ Climate & Health Council
Mob. 021 2010 440; Email: scott.metcalfe2@gmail.com

Dr Rhys Jones, Co-convenor
OraTaiao: NZ Climate & Health Council
Tel. 09 923 6278 Mob. 021 411 743 rg.jones@auckland.ac.nz

Background notes

Dr Rhys Jones (Ngāti Kahungunu) is a public health physician at the University of Auckland. He co-convenes OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council.

About urgency, coal and renewables

Professor Thomas Stocker, co-chair of Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warned on 27 September that continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. "Limiting climate change will
require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions."

source: Scientific Body Reports 'Human Influence on Climate Clear'. Bloomberg, 28 September 2013. http://www.bloomberg.com//news/2013-09-27/scientific-body-reports-human-influence-on-climate-clear-.html

A recent report by Goldman Sachs, entitled ‘The window for thermal coal investment is closing‘, states

that thermal coal’s current position atop the fuel mix for global power generation will be gradually

eroded by the following structural trends:
1) environmental regulations that discourage coal-fired generation;
2) strong competition from gas and renewable energy; and
3) improvements in energy efficiency.
The report concludes that ‘even when carbon prices are low or non-existent, the downside risks of future regulation can offset the cost advantage of thermal coal relative to alternative energy sources‘.

source: Goldman Sachs Commodities Research. The window for thermal coal investment is closing. Rocks & Ores. July 24, 2013; http://www.carbontracker.org/news/goldman-sachs-say-thermal-coal-is-a-bad-investment

By contrast, new global renewable energy investment now exceeds fossil fuels and nuclear combined,

and has done so since 2011.

source: Renewables Global Futures Report 2013. Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP), 2013. www.ren21.net/REN21Activities/GlobalFuturesReport.aspx

A new study suggests that reducing greenhouse gas emissions also will decrease outdoor air pollution

and may save the lives of more than two million people annually in the future. Further, when examined in

monetary terms, these benefits to human health are calculated to outweigh the implementation costs of

reducing the greenhouse gas emissions through at least 2050.

source:

http://www2.sph.unc.edu/schoolwide_news/reducing_greenhouse_gases_benefits_air_quality_saves_lives_27838_8289.

West JJ, Smith SJ, Silva RA, Naik V, Yuqiang Zhang, et al. Co-benefits of mitigating global greenhouse gas emissions for future air quality and human health. Nature Climate Change 2013;3:885889. http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v3/n10/full/nclimate2009.htm

About climate and health

Climate change is widely recognised by world health authorities and leading medical journals to be the biggest global health threat of the 21st century and this is well-accepted by NZ medical professional bodies. Major threats to global health from climate change will occur through water and food insecurity, threats to shelter and human settlements, population displacement and migration, extreme climatic events, changing patterns of disease, risks to security (e.g. war), and loss of economic potential.

Conversely, addressing climate change is an opportunity to improve population health and reduce inequities. In NZ, well designed policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can bring about substantial health co-benefits including reductions in heart disease, cancer, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, respiratory disease, and motor vehicle injuries, and improvements in mental health. These substantial health gains are possible through strategies such as transport infrastructure redesign to encourage active travel, healthy eating (including reduced red meat and animal fat consumption), and improving home insulation.

Ora Taiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council’s Key Messages

Climate change is a real and urgent threat to the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders.

New Zealand must be an active partner in global cooperation to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions to 350ppm CO2-equivalents by:

o rapidly halving our own emissions by 2020;
o paying our fair share of international investment in a global future.

New Zealand can, and must, respond to climate change in ways that improve population health, accord with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, create a more equitable, just and resilient society, and promote a healthier economy within ecological resource limits.

Information and References

1. Costello A, Abbas M, Allen A, et al. Managing the health effects of climate change: Lancet and University College London Institute for Global Health Commission. Lancet 2009,373:16931733.

2. Jay M, Marmot MG. Health and climate change. Lancet. 2009;374:961-2.

3. Chan M. Climate change and health: preparing for unprecedented challenges. The 2007 David E. Barmes Global Health Lecture, Bethesda, Maryland, USA, 10 December 2007. (World Health Organization, Director-General speeches 2006-12.) http://www.who.int/dg/speeches/2007/20071211_maryland/en/

4. Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2nd Edition: A Guide to the Cold Calculus of A Hot Planet. DARA International and the Climate Vulnerable Forum, 2012. https://s3.amazonaws.com/daraint/CVM2ndEd-ExecutiveSummary.pdf

5. Confalonieri, U., B.Menne, R.Akhtar, K.L Ebi, M.Hauengue, R.S.Kovats, B.Revich and A.Woodward, 2007. Human Health. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaption and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L.Parry, O.F.Canziani, J.P.Palutikof, P.J,van der Linden and C.E.Hanson, Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 391-431. http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg2/ar4-wg2-chapter8.pdf

6. Howden-Chapman P, Chapman R, Hales S, Britton E, Wilson N (2010). Climate change and human health: Impact and adaptation issues for New Zealand. In: Climate change adaptation in New Zealand: Future scenarios and some sectoral perspectives. Nottage RAC, Wratt DS, Bornman JF, Jones K (eds). New Zealand Climate Change Centre, Wellington, pp 112-121.

html;

http://www.nzclimatechangecentre.org/sites/nzclimatechangecentre.org/files/images/research/Climate%20Change %20Adaptation%20in%20New%20Zealand%20(NZCCC)%20high%208.pdf

7. Phipps R, Randerson R, Blashki G (2011). The climate change challenge for general practice in New Zealand. NZ Med J, 124(1333): 47-54. http://journal.nzma.org.nz/journal/124-1333/4637/

8. McMichael AJ (2013). Globalisation, climate change and human health. NEJM 368(14), 1335-1343.

http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMra1109341

9. World Medical Association. WMA Declaration of Delhi on Health and Climate Change. Adopted by the 60th WMA General Assembly, New Delhi, India, October 2009. http://www.wma.net/en/30publications/10policies/c5/index.html

10. Metcalfe S, Woodward A, Macmillan A, Baker M, Howden-Chapman P, et al; New Zealand Climate and Health. Why New Zealand must rapidly halve its greenhouse gas emissions [Special Article]. N Z Med J. 2009 Oct 9;122(1304):72-95. http://journal.nzma.org.nz/journal/122-1304/3827/

11. Montgomery H. Climate change: the health consequences of inactivity [editorial]. NZ Med J. 2009 Oct 9;122(1304):6-8. http://journal.nzma.org.nz/journal/122-1304/3817/

12. Joint letter 2009 from The Royal College of Physicians and 17 other professional bodies, published simultaneously in The Lancet and the BMJ. Lancet. 2009;374:973; BMJ. 2009;339:b3672.

13. New Zealand Medical Association. NZMA Position Statement on Health and Climate Change. Wellington: NZMA, 2010. http://www.nzma.org.nz/policies/advocacy/position-statements/climatechange

14. New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine. Climate change: New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine policy statement. Wellington: New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine (NZCPHM), 2012. http://www.populationhealth.org.nz/media/77463/2012%2006%20climate%20change%20%20(interim)%20policy% 20statement%20-%20final.pdf

15. Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, B. Metz, O.R. Davidson, P.R. Bosch, R. Dave, L.A. Meyer, Eds. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA. http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg3/en/contents.html

16. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. Summary for Policymakers, 2013. http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/uploads/WGIAR5- SPM_Approved27Sep2013.pdf

17. Scientific Body Reports 'Human Influence on Climate Clear'. Bloomberg, 28 September 2013.

http://www.bloomberg.com//news/2013-09-27/scientific-body-reports-human-influence-on-climate-clear-.html

18. Goldman Sachs Commodities Research. The window for thermal coal investment is closing. Rocks & Ores. July 24, 2013; http://www.carbontracker.org/news/goldman-sachs-say-thermal-coal-is-a-bad-investment

19. Renewables Global Futures Report 2013. Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP), 2013. www.ren21.net/REN21Activities/GlobalFuturesReport.aspx

20. West JJ, Smith SJ, Silva RA, Naik V, Yuqiang Zhang, et al. Co-benefits of mitigating global greenhouse gas emissions for future air quality and human health. Nature Climate Change 2013;3:885889. http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v3/n10/full/nclimate2009.htm 


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