Government climate and health equity priorities must prompt a deeper re-think of health and healthcare for the 21st century
Editorial by Dr Alex Macmillan and Dr Rhys Jones. The New Zealand Medical Journal 31 August 2018, Vol 131 No 1481.
"This year, in an historic move, the Minister of Health issued letters of expectation to all DHBs which included a directive for action by DHBs to address climate change, together with a priority to reduce health inequities. The new climate change requirement recognises that the health sector is not only a major contributor to the greatest public health issue facing us, but also has the potential to show leadership in addressing climate change in ways that protect and promote health. It can be put in the context of healthcare ethics, particularly that it is unethical to provide healthcare while also harming health through environmental pollution. For this reason, accounting for environmental impacts of healthcare is enshrined in the legislation governing District Health Boards."
NZMJ subscriber content here.
Liz Springford letter. Discusses OECD report on the economic consequences of climate change. The Dominion Post, 31 July 2018.
Interview with Dr Rhys Jones and anaesthetist Dr Matthew Jenks. New Zealand Anaesthesia: The Magazine of the NZ Society of Anaesthetists, August 2018. Read here.
9 August 2018
A report released this week on the dangers of heading towards “Hothouse Earth” makes it clear that climate change is now a public health emergency.
“Just as we would react to the threat of pandemic, we need to speed up our efforts to tackle emissions and protect health,” says Dr Rhys Jones, Co-convenor of OraTaio: The NZ Climate and Health Council.
The report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, states, “the Earth System may be approaching a planetary threshold that could lock in a continuing, rapid pathway towards much hotter conditions — Hothouse Earth.”Read more
Submission 19 July 2018
OraTaiao submission to the Ministry for the Environment on the Zero Carbon Bill
'We welcome the Bill, which is not just crucial to reducing New Zealand emissions, but is also some of the most important health legislation of our generation. OraTaiao, alongside other experts in climate change and health, considers that tackling climate change is potentially the greatest global health opportunity this century. With that in mind, our submission is focused on the potential health gains and the other co-benefits from New Zealand reducing its emissions.'
The submission also states: 'A healthy Zero Carbon Act is an essential prescription for New Zealand’s health and well-being, and we strongly support it. Health workers call for a Zero Carbon Act that’s fast, fair, firm andfounded on Te Tiriti – with health at its heart. In summary, we want the target of net zero emissions across all greenhouse gases by 2040 set in law now.'
Read full submission here.
Dr Andrea Forde, Dr Scott Metcalfe, and policy analyst Liz Springford, set out the importance of tackling climate change.
6 July 2018
Today members of 18 leading health professional organisations met with the Minister for Climate Change, Hon. James Shaw, to add their collective voices of support for a strong Zero Carbon Act.
The meeting, hosted by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, included organisations representing tens of thousands of nurses, doctors and other health professionals. Attendees were united in their call for decisive action on climate change to protect and improve health and fairness for New Zealanders.
“There is a strong consensus among health professionals that NZ needs a robust law to get to net zero greenhouse gas emissions,” says Dr Rhys Jones, co-convenor of OraTaiao, the NZ Climate & Health Council.Read more
29 June 2018
The latest reported draft of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C shows growing certainty that 2°C of warming is a dangerous step for humanity, and for the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders. Differences between global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C are “substantial” – damaging to communities, economies and ecosystems across the world.
As well as cutting carbon dioxide to net zero, rapid reductions in other gases, "particularly methane", are demanded by the UN report. The report also calls for "more emphasis on efforts to cut emissions before 2030". The Zero Carbon Bill will need to be further strengthened to ensure it is responding to the science.Read more
Submission 13 June 2018
OraTaiao submission on the New Zealand Productivity Commission’s Low-Emissions Economy: Draft Report
'OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council welcomes the draft Report from the Productivity Commission on achieving a low-emissions economy for New Zealand. We recognise that the recommendation of the Commission to include emissions from agriculture in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is a significant step in transitioning the NZ economy, however we consider that the target should be to a net zero emissions future with accelerated timelines.'
OraTaiao also propose some, 'principles by means of which the process to achieve net zero may be implemented. These include a more robust acknowledgement of the substantial co-benefits to health from well-designed reduction and mitigation, adherence to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and a commitment to address issues of inequities within New Zealand society.'
Recommendations are summarised in the submission.
7 June 2018
Health professionals welcome today’s public consultation launch for the Zero Carbon Bill, saying it is crucial for New Zealanders’ health. However, they warn that the Bill will need to be seriously strengthened for faster, fairer protection of a healthy climate.
The Bill (modelled on the UK’s successful Climate Change Act 2008), proposes a consistent policy framework for NZ to reach net zero climate pollution in the coming decades. This is vital for protecting human health and wellbeing, in the context of global action.Read more