Health professionals welcome NZ climate target legal challenge

Health professionals are welcoming a Waikato law student’s legal challenge of the NZ Government’s weak target for reducing climate emissions.

Sarah Thomson is suing the Government, claiming NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions targets were arrived at illegally, and that the pledge NZ will take to the upcoming international negotiations in Paris is “unreasonable and irrational”.

Earlier this year many health professionals and organisations – representing doctors, nurses, and public health professionals – submitted on NZ’s post-2020 climate target. Their submissions called for ambitious targets that would protect and promote the health of New Zealanders. They included the NZ Medical Association and the NZ Nurses Organisation, representing over 50,000 professionals.

But the consultation process made it clear that the health gains from climate action and the human health costs of inaction were being ignored. The emissions reduction target eventually submitted by New Zealand – an 11 percent reduction on 1990 levels by 2030 – has been widely condemned as grossly inadequate.

“New Zealand’s target is much lower than what scientists say is needed from countries to avoid dangerous levels of climate change that will be catastrophic to human health,” says Dr Rhys Jones, co-convenor of OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council. “Yet well-planned action to reduce climate-damaging emissions could immediately improve our health and wellbeing.”

Dr Jones says it is unfair that poor countries, who have contributed the least to this emergency, are being affected first and worst. In our own region, the Council is particularly concerned about the impacts on Māori and Pacific peoples in New Zealand, and on the health of people in Pacific Island nations. “New Zealand’s pathetic climate target shows contempt for the innocent peoples of low-lying Pacific Island states. Global warming will drive people from their land and result in profound adverse health effects. It is a particularly nasty betrayal by New Zealand – which of all countries should speak up and support the interests of Pacific Nations.”

“As health professionals, we have a duty to promote and protect the health of patients and populations. This government’s inaction in the face of urgently needed emissions reduction represents a clear threat to the health of New Zealanders and our Pacific neighbours. We support real steps to reduce climate change, including legal action, for a healthy future,” says Dr Jones.

ENDS

Media Spokesperson: Dr Rhys Jones, Ph. 021 411 743
Dr Rhys Jones (Ngāti Kahungunu) (rg.jones@auckland.ac.nz) is a Public Health Physician and Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland, and Co-convenor of OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate Climate and Health Council.

Background

OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council are health professionals concerned with climate change as a serious public health threat. They also promote the positive health gains that can be achieved through action to address climate change. See: www.orataiao.org.nz

News item: ‘Sarah vs the State: Government’s climate targets ‘illegal, unreasonable, irrational’’, http://www.nzgeographic.co.nz/atlarge/sarah-vs-the-state

About Climate Change and Health
See NZ specific climate-health information in the NZ Medial Journal paper:
‘Health and equity impacts of climate change in Aotearoa-New Zealand, and health gains from climate action’.

Health threats globally and for NZ include illness and injury from heat waves and extreme weather events, changing patterns of infectious diseases, and wider impacts from loss of livelihoods, food and water shortages, migration, and conflict.
Well-planned action to reduce climate-damaging emissions could improve health and wellbeing. Examples include rapid moves to more walking, cycling and public transport will cut transport emissions, reduce air pollution, and boost physical activity – impacting obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and respiratory disease.

MfE Summary of Submissions on NZ’s Climate Change Target (includes 30 submissions from health professionals and health professional organisations)
http://www.mfe.govt.nz/sites/default/files/media/nz-climate-change-target-summary-of-submissions.pdf

Key Submissions by Health Organisations:
• The NZ Medical Association
• The NZ Nurses Organisation
• The NZ College of Public Health Medicine submission and supplement
• The Public Health Association
• OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council
• Pacific public health professionals
• The Department of Preventive and Social Medicine at the University of Otago


‘Healthy Climate, Healthy People’

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