Healthy Climate, Healthy People
We are health professionals calling for urgent and fair climate action
for real health gains - now, and for our future.
Click here for the Health Professionals Joint Call for Action on Climate Change and Health
The piling up of threat upon threat as global warming accelerates is not matched by political will to reduce and mitigate climate change effects, writes OraTaiao Co-convenor Dermot Coffey in New Zealand Doctor Rata Aotearoa. We are grateful for permission to now republish his op-ed here.
Human wellbeing is inexorably linked with planetary health. This relationship has long been understood in Indigenous worldviews and is receiving increasing attention in academic literature and public health movements. The health sector now needs to accept our crucial central role in Aotearoa’s climate response and every one of us needs to add our part. Writing in the September 2023 New Zealand Medical Student Journal Te Hautaka o ngā Akongā Rongoā, OraTaiao Board members Dermot Coffey, Summer Wright and Angad S. Chauhan offer suggestions for medical students and clinicians about where to start. Read here.
MEDIA RELEASE, 22 September 2023
A Health election scorecard, released today by OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council, shows significant room for improvement from all parties. Representing more than 1,000 health professionals and health organisations in Aotearoa, OraTaiao is part of a worldwide movement urgently focusing on the health challenges of climate change and the health opportunities of climate action.
New Zealand's current commitment to cut gross domestic emissions is a mere fraction of what’s needed from us, pressure to cut all gases much faster is highly likely, and New Zealand simply can’t afford to shield any sector from reality. The easiest path for the transport sector is for GPS2024 to rapidly eliminate climate pollution and ensure the infrastructure needed for net zero much closer to 2030 than 2050, with negative emissions soon after.
‘Rapidly reducing emissions’ must be the top strategic priority in GPS2024. The second strategic priority is ensuring ‘resilience’. The third strategic priority is ‘health and safety’, as the transport sector has a big influence on the health of New Zealanders.
The other three priorities must be considered in the context of increasingly constrained capacity to emit, while ensuring Tiriti o Waitangi, justice, inclusive and equitable access are cross-cutting themes across all six strategic priorities.
‘Rapidly reducing emissions’ which OraTaiao expects must be the top strategic priority in GPS2024, means a major shift in funding across activity classes and years, to frontload investment in public transport, cycling and walking activity classes. This is the chance to accelerate the necessary shift from predominantly privately owned vehicle transport, to shared transport, walking and cycling.
OraTaiao's full submission to Te Manatū Waka (Ministry of Transport), prepared by Liz Springford, Dr Scott Metcalfe, Dr James Hamill and Summer Wright, is available here.
The Government proposes the deferral of farm-level agricultural emissions reporting and pricing by two years, from 1 January 2024 to 1 January 2026.
OraTaiao is strongly opposed.
We understand that the challenge posed by the climate crisis is to slow, then stop, then remove the flow of dangerous gases thickening the blanket of climate pollution overheating our world. Just like the human body, our planet has a very limited average temperature range where climate conditions are stable and we humans can thrive. Every tenth of a degree of overheating increases risks of tipping points and irrevocable harm.
As New Zealanders can already see from Cyclone Gabrielle and the Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland floods, we cannot afford a destabilising global climate. What's more, current Government commitments to cut gross domestic emissions are a mere fraction of what’s needed from us. Pressure to cut all gases much faster is highly likely, and New Zealand simply can’t afford to continue subsidising and shielding the agriculture sector from reality either.
Pricing the mega-tonnes of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emitted by the sector is essential to drive the deep cuts in our gross emissions that are needed to meet our domestic and international obligations.
We therefore strongly urge that basic farm-level agricultural emissions reporting starts from 1 January 2024 as per the Climate Change Response Act backstop provision - albeit with a small legislative change to use the definition by He Waka Eke Noa - Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership (26,000 farms covering 96% of agricultural emissions).
Our full submission to the Ministry for the Environment Manatū Mō Te Taiao, produced by Liz Springford and Dr Scott Metcalfe based on OraTaiao’s 2030 vision for Aotearoa’s transformed food sector and lands, is available here.
Critical infrastructure provides essential services to people across Aotearoa and it must be able to to absorb shocks, recover from disruptions and adapt to changing conditions. Critical infrastructure is often thought of as energy supply, telecommunications, water, food, financial services and roads.
OraTaiao's feedback to the discussion document on enhancing its resilience emphasises that the health system – especially primary care – deserves particular attention. In addition, critical infrastructure protection and enhancement, if designed well, can offer significant health gains through developing resilient active and public transport systems, enhancing the “health” of buildings, and protecting food production. And Aotearoa’s approach to enhancing the resilience of critical infrastructure must be fully enmeshed in our mitigation efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Our submission on these issues to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, prepared by OraTaiao Co-convenor Dr Dermot Coffey, is available here.
Viewpoint by Michael Brenndorfer. Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, Vol 26, No 9, October 2020. Read here (PDF).
Article by Dr Dermot Coffey. New Zealand Doctor, 7 October 2020. Read here.
Scorecard and report by OraTaiao: NZ Climate & Health Council rating political parties' policies on climate change and health for NZ General Election 2020. See here (PDF).
We also do work to inform NZ's contribution to international climate action; highlight the climate and wider...
OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council is a not-for-profit incorporated society that receives no external funding.
Activity largely depends on volunteer time, and membership donations to allow employment of a part-time coordinator.
You can also consider offsetting your unavoidable carbon emissions.
Become a member here