An historic meeting for climate change and health

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.

“A Zero Carbon Act will need to set targets and action that are fast, fair, firm and founded on Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Three decades of sitting on our hands means we now need to face the reality that all sectors must play their part in responding to the climate crisis. We need to reach net zero for all our greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.”

“Importantly, we also know that well-designed climate action can create better health and a fairer society now and in future. Energy efficient homes can be warmer, drier and more affordable; low carbon transport can make it easy to be more active and clear the air; and shifting towards a plant-based food system can reduce cancer and address our freshwater crisis.”

“According to the World Health Organization, climate change is the defining health issue of the 21stcentury. The Zero Carbon Bill is a crucial piece of legislation for health, because it’s a huge opportunity to improve health and build a fairer society through well designed climate action.”

“For our health’s sake, the Climate Commission has to set emissions budgets that rapidly reduce NZ’s domestic carbon, nitrous oxide and methane emissions, starting immediately,” says Dr Jones.

The Zero Carbon Bill consultation ends 5pm Thursday 19 July.


Media Spokesperson: Dr Rhys Jones 021 411 743

Dr Rhys Jones(Ngāti Kahungunu) ([email protected]) is a Public Health Physician and Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland, and Co-convenor of OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council.

The following organisations were represented at the meeting:

OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) 

New Zealand  Nurses Organisation

Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa (Te ORA), Māori Medical Practitioners Association

New Zealand College of Midwives

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians

New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine

New Zealand Society of Anaesthetists

Australasian College for Emergency Medicine

Public Health Association of NZ 

Health Promotion Forum of NZ 

The University of Auckland Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences 

The University of Otago Division of Health Sciences 

NZ Medical Students Association

Auckland University Medical Students Association

Medical Students for Global Awareness

Sustainable Health Sector National Network New Zealand (SHSNN)

Ministry for the Environment information about the Zero Carbon Bill:

News of the IPCC Special Report on 1.5’C

Methane matters, because it also warms the ocean as well as atmosphere, and that ocean impact continues for hundreds of years

About Climate Change and Health
Information is available in the following paper from the 2014 NZ Medical Journal: ‘Health and equity impacts of climate change in Aotearoa-New Zealand, and health gains from climate action’.

Health threats from climate changes include:worsening illness and injury from heat and other extreme weather, changing patterns of infection including food poisoning, loss of seafood and farming livelihoods, food price rises and mass migration from the Pacific. Those on low incomes, Māori, Pacific people, children and older people will be hit first and hardest, but nobody will be immune to the widespread health and social threats of unchecked climate change. Direct and indirect climate change impacts are already being seen here from warming oceans and sea level rise.

Health opportunities from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, easing pressure on health budgets include:rapidly phasing out coal; switching from car trips to more walking, cycling and public transport; healthier diets lower in red meat and dairy; and energy efficient, warm homes will all cut emissions while also reducing the diseases that kill New Zealanders most and put our children in hospital – cancer, heart disease, lung diseases and car crash injuries.

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