August 2023 Newsletter Pānui

August 2023 Newsletter Pānui

Kia ora --

With Spring and temperate weather around the corner, we are feeling invigorated for a busy period of climate action. There are major opportunities in the 2023 election and COP28 to put the planet and health first.

To prepare for General Election 2023, we are assembling our hotly-awaited election scorecard for political parties' stance on climate and health. This will be released in September, so keep an eye out! Every election is now a climate election, and we expect policies from the political parties that reflect that. A modest decrease in our annual emissions in 2022 has sparked some minor hope, but ongoing major transformation is required.

After 15 years, the ineffective Emissions Trading Scheme is being reviewed. It is time for a powerful, just program that enables true and meaningful emissions reductions. We made a submission to the Government to radically transform the scheme - more below. We also made shorter submissions on the government’s plans to enhance the resilience of our critical infrastructure and whether or not to continue to allow the status quo for e-scooters to continue.

Finally, with one eye ahead to COP28 later this year, we have sent a letter to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Health and Climate Change and contacted their opposition counterparts recommending that health expertise is embedded within Aotearoa’s delegation for this, the “Health COP”.

Nā māua noa, nā

Dermot and Summer
Co-convenors, OraTaiao: NZ Climate & Health Council


1. Update on OraTaiao activities
2. National happenings
3. International news
4. Good news, interesting links, books

1. Update on OraTaiao activities

Patch, or ditch the Emissions Trading Scheme
by Liz Springford and Grant Brookes
After a decade and a half of operation, and a multitude of amendments and reviews, the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme is “predominantly driving exotic forest planting rather than gross emissions reduction.” This description of the sad reality, given by the Ministry for the Environment Manatū Mō Te Taiao in their discussion document, is the reason why the Ministry is consulting on yet another review of the scheme. OraTaiao has made a submission, calling on the Government to radically transform the NZ ETS. 

The current NZ ETS is a dangerous vehicle for corporate welfare – at the cost of health, housing and more. At a minimum, the ETS must be fixed to “do no harm.” New Zealand’s biggest climate polluters currently delay cutting their fossil-fuelled pollution, by choosing cheap tree-planting – cop-outs that put us even more at risk.

Carbon dioxide takes over 10,000 years to completely leave the thick atmospheric blanket of climate pollution overheating our world. Even “permanent” indigenous forests are increasingly threatened by wildfires, infestation, landslips and floods, as our world overheats.

Free emissions allocation to industries must phase out fast so that big climate polluters face their full pollution costs before 2030. Mostly “vintage” stockpiled units should expire in one to two years. Otherwise, New Zealand faces spending many billions for highly dubious offshore credits in 2030 – and getting stuck here with high-polluting businesses and dinosaur infrastructure.

Global climate experts now call for rapid, deep and mostly immediate cuts to climate pollution in all sectors this decade – for half a chance of limiting global overheating to 1.5 degrees, and a two-thirds chance of 2 degrees. Every tenth of a degree counts. 

Papatūānuku is suffering – we see Cyclone Gabrielle here, and extreme heatwaves globally making lives harder and devastating economies. This climate crisis is rapidly changing and we must act faster. New Zealand is high-emitting, wealthy, and has the highest per capita historic climate pollution since 1850. Yet we’ve signed up to an “average'' global effort of halving emissions by 2030 – mostly tree-planting and buying offshore credits. That leaves real emissions cuts of just seven percent by 2030 – and the current ETS will fail even that, let alone the bigger effort we owe our world.

For precision tools to drive essential emissions cuts across all sectors and gases, OraTaiao has called for:

  • Māori interests to be put first, with elimination of all Māori participation barriers, and creation of equity for Māori.
  • two tightly capped separate trading schemes for carbon dioxide cuts and for biogenic methane cuts to be implemented – at the speed and scale needed for negative emissions nearer to 2030.
  • trees and forestry to be removed to a new co-governed Carbon Removals project – i.e. Māori and Crown direct forestry – which would exclude international traders and help to properly direct the role forestry has in our climate response
  • the passing of strong laws to phase out synthetic nitrogen fertilisers and fossil-fuelled methane leaks by 2030.
  • investment in direct support so low-income households thrive.
  • the publicising of the faster changes required ahead of new laws.

After 15 ineffectual years, either transform the ETS, or end it. Escalate our other climate tools – regulation, sector plans, direct investment, innovation and more. Our full submission is here:

E-scooters don't belong on footpaths
Waka Kotahi declared in 2018 that e-scooters were not designated to be motor vehicles. This temporary declaration has allowed them to be used and parked on footpaths. Now up for renewal, OraTaiao strongly recommends that an extension to the 2018 notice should not be provided, for three main reasons. The speed differential and the random depositing of shared e-scooters on footpaths creates hazards for both e-scooter riders and footpath users – especially for disabled and blind pedestrians. The current evidence also suggests that the mode-shift to e-scooters comes from healthier forms of transport, such as walking.

E-scooters on footpathsE-scooters⎪Photo by Ernest Ojeh on Unsplash


Health in all infrastructure 
In the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle and the devastating floods of 2023, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is consulting on how to enhance the resilience of Aotearoa New Zealand’s critical infrastructure. OraTaiao's feedback 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 active and public transport systems, enhancing the “health” of buildings, and protecting food production. And enhancing resilience must be fully integrated with our mitigation efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Tomorrow's doctors care for the climate 
OraTaiao was delighted to join 60 medical students in Ōtepoti Dunedin last month for a weekend of media training, workshops, volunteering to actively protect the local whenua and emergency communication training. The Clinical Leadership Forum, run annually by the New Zealand Medical Students’ Association, was focused this year on “Clinicians caring for the climate.” Despite recognition by the WHO that climate change is this century's greatest public health threat, a recent global survey published in Medical Teacher found that the proportion of medical schools which incorporate climate change in their curriculum stands at just one in seven. 

OraTaiao Board member and fifth year medical student Angad Chauhan helped put the event together, as part of the NZMSA Engagement Working Group. He also chaired a panel discussion on the role that med students can have in leadership for sustainability, featuring Professor Simon Hales from the Otago University Department of Public Health, Samoan indigenous researcher Mino Cleverly and OraTaiao Co-convenors Dr Dermot Coffey and Summer Wright (Ngāti Maniapoto). 

Angad Chauhan, Dermot Coffey, Summer Wright, Mino Cleverly at 2023 Clinical Leadership ForumCLF panellists Angad, Dermot, Summer & Mino⎪Photo Summer Wright

Join OraTaiao at the Auckland Climate Festival  
Auckland Climate Festival is a month-long festival held in Taamaki Makaurau every year creating space for people to come together as a city to celebrate, catalyse and accelerate climate action. This year's programme for the first time features OraTaiao. Co-hosted by Te Whatu Ora Counties Manukau, OraTaiao Co-convenor Summer Wright (Ngāti Maniapoto, Pākehā) will present an online session about the relationship between climate health and human health. As a dietitian, Summer is particularly interested in our use of food and its connections to the ecosystem, animal & human health. However, as a climate health researcher, topics other than food will be included. 

Climate Health & Sustainable Healthcare Conference – videos now online
Organised by Climate Health Aotearoa, Sustainable Healthcare Aotearoa, the Climate and Health Alliance and OraTaiao, last month's CHSH2023 Conference was attended by over 230 people. For those who missed it, Zoom recordings of the sessions are now available through the conference website, including a seminal kōrero on “The Contribution of Mātauranga to Climate Health Outcomes in Aotearoa'' by OraTaiao Co-convenor Summer Wright (Ngāti Maniapoto, Pākehā).

CHSH2023 Summer Wright and moderator Dr David Galler Summer Wright & CHSH2023 moderator Dave Galler


2. National happenings

Cool heads or hot air from political parties?
The general election, now less than two months away, poses stark choices for the future of Aotearoa. OraTaiao has written to all of the registered political parties, probing their intentions towards better health, equity and stabilising climate changes. We are seeking answers to questions about:

  • International leadership and domestic action 
  • Te Tiriti o Waitangi 
  • Equitable and just transition
  • Rural, agriculture and food policies
  • Transport, housing and urban planning
  • Energy sector 
  • NZ Emissions Trading Scheme
  • Adaptation policies on climate change
  • Health sector
  • Pacific Islands relationships

Based on their responses (or non-responses), OraTaiao will release a pre-election Climate, Health & Equity Scorecard for all parties in early September. While we await their answers, the recent Newshub Nation young leaders’ debate caught our eye. 

A court win for the climate
Last December, the Government controversially rejected official advice to make big carbon emitters pay more for their climate pollution. The rejected proposals would have seen the floor price of a carbon credit (or unit) in the Emissions Trading Scheme rise from $32 to $60. It would have also upped the point at which the Government pumps in extra units, from $78 to a two-tier price of $171 for the first release and $214 to release a second batch of units. Following the decision, the price of carbon credits crashed from $87 a tonne to just $34. Two Government auctions this year failed to sell any units, robbing the country of an estimated half a billion dollars in funding for carbon-cutting policies and support for vulnerable communities. 

As OraTaiao's submission on the 2023 review of the ETS made plain, the December decision is far from the only problem with the scheme. Nonetheless, it was welcome news last month when one of OraTaiao's partners in the New Zealand Climate Action Network, Lawyers for Climate Action New Zealand Incorporated, won a court case alleging that the December decision breached the Zero Carbon Act, prompting the Government to reverse its decision. As the subsequent 1News story on climate litigation showed, OraTaiao has stood alongside our legal colleagues from the start. 

Climate litigant Sarah ThompsonInaugural climate litigant Sarah Thompson


3. International news

Health in “the era of global boiling”
The headlines over the last month have been hard to miss. The story they tell is unmistakable. “July was world's hottest on record, EU scientists say.” The month also saw the warmest day since records began on Monday, 3 July. The record only lasted 24 hours – it was broken again on Tuesday, 4 July as the average global temperature soared to 17.18 °C according to EU climate monitoring service Copernicus. It wasn’t just temperatures on land reaching all-time highs, either – “Ocean surface hits highest ever recorded temperature and set to rise further.” 

Coverage sourced from media outlets in high income countries has focused heavily on the summer heat waves in Europe and the United States. But temperatures south of the Equator were even more alarming: “Mid-winter temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius in South America leave climatologists in disbelief.” Here in Aotearoa, new daily high temperature records were set at six climate stations around the motu. 

Daily, monthly and marine temperatures weren’t the only records broken in July. Disappearing Antarctic sea ice was another of the “Four global climate records smashed.” The warnings are stark. “Climate records tumble, leaving Earth in uncharted territory – scientists.” The “‘Era of global boiling has arrived,’ says UN chief.”

It will take time for researchers to tally up the multiplicity of health impacts due to the boiling climate this year. But an article published last month in Nature Medicine reports on the heat-related mortality during the less severe (but still severe) 2022 European heat wave. “We estimated 61,672 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 37,643–86,807) heat-related deaths in Europe between 30 May and 4 September 2022.” 

OraTaiao’s international parent body, the Global Climate and Health Alliance, has responded to last month’s record-shattering events: “People around the world are experiencing unprecedented heatwaves and out of control wildfires. Ninety-nine percent of the world’s population breathes polluted air. Extreme storms and floods are now regular events, spreading disease, and driving people from the safety of their homes and communities. Climate change is impacting every country, reaching nearly every community.” The question now on the minds of many is, “How deadly are these heatwaves – and how hot will they get?

Stop fiddling while home burns 
The story of the Roman Emperor Nero watching on idly while his city burned may be apocryphal, but global inaction by world leaders so far this year is real. After a disappointing lack of progress at the Bonn Climate Summit, reported in the last Newsletter, G20 leaders meeting in India last month also failed to reach agreement on climate action. In Brazil, member states belonging to the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization knocked back plans to end deforestation by 2030 and rejected calls to end new oil development, as indigenous peoples marched outside their summit. 

If our high emissions trajectory continues, as the World Health Organisation reported in May, over nine million climate-related deaths per year are projected by the end of the century while up to three quarters of the world’s population will face deadly heatwaves for 20 or more days per year. So eyes are now focused on the UN Secretary General’s Climate Ambition Summit in September and the COP28 climate negotiations in December, where the health community intends to mobilise on an unprecedented scale for what is billed as a “Health COP.” 

Writing in Health Policy Watch, Jess Beagley and Jeni Miller from Global Climate and Health Alliance pose the question, “What should world leaders do to make COP28 a true Health COP? It’s a welcome start to have a Health Day and an inter-ministerial meeting that brings health ministers to COP as part of their national delegations. To be a true Health COP, however, COP28 must deliver an end to the fossil fuel era, deliver financial and technical support to countries most impacted and least responsible for climate change, and bring climate progress centred on people’s health and well-being.” 

OraTaio has written to Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta, and to opposition spokespeople, strongly recommending that New Zealand’s COP28 delegation include dedicated expertise from members who have experience in public and planetary health and the presence of one of our health ministers. 

Belém indigenous protest August 2023Belém indigenous protest August 2023⎪Photo VIDS

Lancet Planetary: ‘Indigenous knowledge, community resilience’
The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change are among the greatest socio-environmental crises of our time. Both have revealed substantial weaknesses in health systems and community preparedness. An article in the August issue of The Lancet Planetary Health comments that, “The knowledge of Indigenous peoples is central to community resilience, and their holistic vision of population health aligns with public health approaches.”

Māori community responses to Covid-19 lockdowns are a case in point. A review of these responses in the March issue of AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples documents how Māori repeatedly demonstrated innovative means of resilience throughout the pandemic. The findings of this review provide an exemplar for the strength of Māori leadership and agency, alongside value-driven holistic approaches to health and well-being that could positively impact the health of all.

So how do Indigenous epistemologies and contemporary public health align? This quick look from the Lancet article summarises the commonalities. As efforts develop to build health emergency preparedness, support climate adaptation and promote sustainable development, the article concludes that it's imperative that Indigenous knowledge, practices, and worldviews underpin policy development and decision-making processes.


4. Good news, interesting links, books

Bending the curve on Aotearoa’s carbon emissions
“Good news on climate?! No, I haven’t been hacked”, tweeted Newsroom senior political reporter Marc Daalder on July 24, back when things called “tweets” still existed. “Newly-released data shows greenhouse gas emissions continued to fall through 2022, suggesting New Zealand has passed peak climate pollution”, he had written, based on provisional data from Stats NZ Tatauranga Aotearoa. Compared to 2019 – where emissions appear to have peaked – our national carbon footprint is nine percent lower (comparing gross 2019 emissions to gross 2022 figures). 

Writing in her weekly newsletter, Stuff Climate Editor Olivia Wannan notes that the world needs to reduce carbon between 40 and 58% by 2030 (comparing net 2010 to net 2030) for no more that 1.5°C of warming. So much bigger falls in our share of carbon emissions are required. But she’s still feeling upbeat.

“Here’s some reasons I’m feeling positive:

1. Our electricity system is more resilient. Contact Energy’s new geothermal station is expected to come online by the end of the year, and will be joined by smaller-scale wind and solar farms.” 

“2. The manufacturing industry appears to be in transition. Over three years, the sector has cut 20% off its footprint. The closure of oil refining operations at Marsden Point (which sent these emissions overseas) is a big contributor – but emissions have continued to fall since then.”

“3. We’re travelling less. We’ve shaved 2 million tonnes off our driving and flying footprint, which has never properly bounced back after Covid-19. And I don’t think it will. While not every job can be done from home, remote working has been embraced by those who love it.”

An explosive thriller on the big screen
After three years of pared-back offerings due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival is roaring back into cinemas around the motu. One of the Festival’s “must-see” films, according to critics from The Spinoff, Stuff, Metro Magazine and the Otago Daily Times, is How to Blow Up a Pipeline

This thriller owes more than a little to the classic heist movie, Reservoir Dogs, but takes its name from a non-fiction book published in 2021 by Andreas Malm, Associate Professor of Human Ecology at the University of Lund in Sweden.  Malm’s book is sparking conversations here in groups as diverse as Restore Passenger Rail and Climate Club. For an intelligent debate about the ideas in the book, check out the episode below of The Stream on Al Jazeera, featuring Nisreen Elsaim, the Sudanese Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, and US climate justice activist Charlotte Grubb. 

Screenings of the film have wrapped up in five towns and cities, but you can still catch How to Blow Up a Pipeline in the Festival’s nine other locations in August and September. Dates and times are listed on the Whānau Mārama website

How to Blow Up a PipelinePromoting How to Blow Up a Pipeline in Pōneke⎪Photo Grant Brookes

High-impact climate action for busy people
Speaking of Climate Club, we’d like to give our partner in the New Zealand Climate Action Network a plug. What began as a volunteer passion project between three friends has grown into a powerful network for busy wanting people to take meaningful climate action, by distilling and amplifying the mahi of climate experts, scientists, and activists. 

They scored a big win this month. Their petition to Parliament opposing free passes for certain exporters to heat the planet without paying resulted in a law change which will stop 800,000 carbon credits being handed out for free. Sign up for the Climate Club weekly newsletter here

Except as noted above, this newsletter was written by Grant Brookes.

OraTaiao: New Zealand Climate and Health Council

Sign in to comment

Recent responses