Doctors are praising the Biodiversity Defence Society’s legal steps yesterday to stop another new coal mine. The Biodiversity Defence Society filed declaration proceedings with the Environment Court on Wednesday, arguing that Solid Energy no longer holds resource consents for its Cypress Mine. The resource consents for the mine – gained in 2005 – were due to expire at the end of 2012 if mining activity had not begun. Seven years later only a road has been built.
Dr Russell Tregonning from OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council, says ‘For the sake of our health, we need to overcome our addiction to fossil fuels, and that includes not opening new coal mines. Every tonne of carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere makes our future that much harder to manage’.
This step to declare the Cypress Mine consent as lapsed coincides with Bill McKibben’s tour of New Zealand this week. Bill McKibben is one of the world's most respected speakers and activists on climate change, and co-founder of global movement 350.org. His message ‘Do The Math’ makes it very clear that we need to emit less than 565 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide to stay within two degrees of global warming. Existing fossil fuel reserves are more than five times that. In other words, we need to leave at least 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground in order to avoid the most serious effects of climate change.
International organisations including the World Bank, PriceWaterHouseCoopers and the International Energy Agency have already warned us we’re on track for 3-4°C warming - the time to act is now. New Zealand’s economy is heavily dependent on our natural environment and we simply can’t afford to open up new coal mines, nor permit oil exploration.
‘For the sake of our health and our economy, New Zealand needs a just transition away from carbon- intensive coal mining’ says Dr Tregonning. The Climate and Health Council calls upon local and central government to support the West Coast to move away from coal mining. ‘The Coast needs healthier choices for employment, not a boom-and-bust industry that’s destroying the safe environment we all depend on’ says Dr Tregonning.
The lapsing of Solid Energy’s Cypress Mine resource consent is another step towards a healthier future without coal dependence.
OraTaiao: The NZ Climate & Health Council
Media liaison – Dr Russell Tregonning, Executive member, cellphone 027 444 6805, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Coordinator: Dr Hayley Bennett 021 156 1469
Dr Rhys Jones, Co‐convenor of OraTaiao: NZ Climate & Health Council Tel. 09 923 6278 Mob. 021 411 743 email@example.com
Dr Russell Tregonning is a Wellington orthopaedic surgeon and teacher at the Wellington School of Medicine. He is also a past-president of the NZ Orthopaedic Association and a current executive member of OraTaiao: The NZ Climate & Health Council.
OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council www.orataiao.org.nz are senior doctors and other health professionals concerned with climate change as a serious public health threat. Climate change remains a clear and present danger of unprecedented scale, and is accepted by health authorities worldwide as the leading global health threat this century.
Links to reports and commentary
The Happy Valley resource consent conditions are available at: http://www.solidenergy.co.nz/coal/operations/assets/cypress-environment-court-conditions.pdf. The consent lapsing period is given at A5 as seven years.
The Happy Valley area is situated at the head of the Waimangaroa Valley on the Stockton Plateau.
Solid Energy is quoted in October 2012 as advising a contractor that it was delaying the Cypress Mine Project. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10837929
Bill McKibben’s ‘Do the Maths’ Tour in New Zealand 11-13 June 2013 http://www.350.org.nz/our- projects/bill-mckibben-do-the-maths
More about fossil fuels and climate change
Bill McKibben at http://math.350.org/: "It’s simple math: we can emit 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2°C of warming — anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Burning the fossil fuel that corporations now have in their reserves would result in emitting 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide – five times the safe amount."
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has stated that no more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2 °C goal (these calculations based on having a 50% chance of constraining climate change to less than 2 °C). http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/English.pdf, https://www.iea.org/newsroomandevents/pressreleases/2012/november/name,33015,en.html
Alternatively, the Carbon Tracker Initiative (www.carbontracker.org) has calculated the proportion of proven fossil fuel reserves that could be consumed to have an 80% chance of hitting the 2 degree target, where:
already in 2011, the world had used over a third of its 50-year carbon budget of 886 GtCO2, leaving 565 GtCO2 (where Research by the Potsdam Institute and others had calculated that to reduce the chance of exceeding 2°C warming to 20%, the global carbon budget for 2000- 2050 was 886 GtCO2. (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v458/n7242/full/nature08017.html, http://www.iac.ethz.ch/people/knuttir/papers/meinshausen09nat.pdf); minus emissions from the first decade of this century, this left a budget of 565 GtCO2 for the remaining 40 years to 2050;
all of the proven reserves owned by private and public companies and governments were equivalent to 2,795 GtCO2;
fossil fuel reserves owned by the top 100 listed coal and top 100 listed oil and gas companies represented total emissions of 745 GtCO2;
only 20% of the total reserves could be burned unabated, leaving up to 80% of assets technically unburnable.
http://www.carbontracker.org/carbonbubble, http://www.carbontracker.org/wp- content/uploads/downloads/2011/07/Unburnable-Carbon-Full-rev2.pdf
Recent credible analysis by Ecofys/Climate Analytics/Potsdam Institute (PIK) (Climate Tracker, September 2010) indicates that if Governments worldwide take no further action beyond current pledges, warming will increase by as much as 2.6 to 4.1 degrees Celsius by 2100 above pre-industrial levels. http://www.climateanalytics.org/news/climate-action-tracker-update-governments-still-set- 3%C2%B0c-warming-track-some-progress-many, http://www.ecofys.com/en/press/governments- set-world-on-more-than-3c-warming-still-playing-with-numbers-/
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 New Zealand medical professional bodies. Major threats—both direct and indirect—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 New Zealand, 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.
About OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate & Health Council (www.orataiao.org.nz)
OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council is an incorporated society comprising over 190 senior doctors and other health professionals concerned about climate change impacts on health and health services. The Council is politically non-partisan.
Leading medical bodies throughout the world are saying that politicians must heed health effects of climate change, doctors must speak out, and doctors demand their politicians be decisive, listen to the clear facts and act now.
OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Climate is part of this international movement. It has published a number of articles about climate change and health in peer-reviewed medical journals, which can be found on its website www.orataiao.org.nz.
The Council’s messages include:
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.
o 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.
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 2009,373:1693–1733. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)60935-1/fulltext
Joint statement: It's time to act on climate change. Faculty of Public Health, Royal College of Physicians and 17 other organisations London: Faculty of Public Health, 2008. http://www.fph.org.uk/uploads/sustainble_development_joint_statement.pdf
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