December 2020 Newsletter Pānui

December 2020 Newsletter Pānui

"Thanks to everyone for their help and support over the year, particularly to our outgoing executive members and a big welcome to our new exec members. Thanks as well for all the messages of support since I took on the reigns in August - I'm always happy to receive support, suggestions, advice or criticism!

"I wish everyone a happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year. We look forward to continuing our work with vigour in 2021, in what will be a huge year in New Zealand for the response to climate change"

Dr Dermot Coffey, Co-convenor, OraTaiao: NZ Climate and Health Council

December 2020 Newsletter

Contents: -

Update on OraTaiao activities
National happenings
International news
Good news, interesting links, books

Update on OraTaiao activities

A flyer for every tea room

Help us to promote the health benefits of climate action and the work of OraTaiao at your workplace by putting up our new flyer in your staff room and notice boards. You can download a flyer here to print. Thank you Summer Wright for your awesome design!

Advice sent to government on climate change and health

Last week we sent briefings to incoming ministers about priority actions on climate change and health and asking for a change in approach from the government from one that looks at climate change action as a cost to society, to one that sees the huge benefits for population health and wellbeing. We sent the briefings to ministers and associate ministers with portfolios in health, housing, transport, energy, building & construction, environment, agriculture, and climate change.

Thank you to all those who contributed to preparing/reviewing parts of the briefing including to our Healthy & Sustainable Kai Working Group, and Liz Springford, Dr Scott Metcalfe and Dr Penelope Milsom.

Dr Dermot Coffey confirmed as Co-convenor and new Executive Board announced

At our Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 26 November we were delighted to confirm Dr Dermot Coffey as Co-convenor. Dr Coffey presented the annual report highlighting OraTaiao’s achievements and activities since November last year. 

At the meeting we also welcomed our new executive board members including Bala Nair, Anna Rumbold, Greer Smit and Siobhan Trevallyan. We farewell: Kera Sherwood-O’Regan, who has advocated on the board for better understanding of disability rights and climate justice; Dr Susanna Lees Watts who has contributed to our social media pages; and Dr Rhys Jones who helped to found OraTaiao and just stepped down as co-convenor last year. See the executive team for 2020-2021 here.

OraTaiao Co-convenor Dr Dermot Coffey

Climate Change Commission presentation at AGM

Lisa Tumahai, Deputy Chair of the Climate Change Commission, presented at our AGM about the upcoming work of the commission (see item below about upcoming consultation) and showed us the He Ara Wairora Version 2.0 framework which is being considered by the Climate Change Commission and increasingly accepted by other government departments. He Ara Waiora aims to provide a potential model for measuring and analysing wellbeing, sourced in mātauranga Māori.

Lisa Tumahai, Deputy Chair, Climate Change Commission

OraTaiao to receive JR McKenzie funding

We are very excited to announce that OraTaiao will receive a small grant/pūtea toro from the J R McKenzie Trust to build organisational capacity and capability in OraTaiao to enable successful advocacy for healthy and equitable climate action (not covering operational costs). The funding is for one year. We will begin implementation in the new year. Thank you to Dr Alison Blaicklock, Dr Rhys Jones, and Dr Paula Thérèse King who all assisted with the grant application.

Taking a stand in Napier

OraTaiao members hosted a stand at the psychiatry conference “A climate for change” in Napier. They spoke to conference attendees and the college about climate and health and the work of OraTaiao, and we have received new membership applications. They also took the opportunity to speak to Climate Change Minister James Shaw emphasising how every step of climate action has impacts on human health.

The conference took place not long after the devastating floods in Napier which caused damage to the conference venue itself.

Dr Andy Phillips, Romelli Rodriguez-Jolly and
Michael Brenndorfer at RANZCP 2020

New signatory to call for action on climate change and health

The College of Intensive Care Medicine of Australia and New Zealand has become the latest health professional group to support the joint call for action on climate change and health recognising human-caused climate change as an increasingly serious and urgent threat to health and health equity in New Zealand and worldwide.

Save the date!

See here for the dates of our executive board meetings in 2021. Look out for reminder emails with the agenda and details of how to join.

Also, we are pleased to announce the Sustainable Healthcare and Climate Health Conference Aotearoa will be proceeding in Wellington in June 2021. 

National happenings

Climate emergency declared, but no ambulance in sight

On 2 December the Prime Minister declared a climate emergency but while an alarm has been sounded, insufficient action was announced to accompany the declaration. The Prime Minister made a commitment for the public sector to be carbon neutral by 2025, but this commitment does not yet include hospitals or schools and as such is a missed opportunity. OraTaiao has signed an open letter to the Prime Minister asking the new government to immediately commit to transitioning all state sector buildings from fossil fuel boilers. Please get in touch with us on [email protected] if you have any information about the use of coal boilers in your hospital/DHB and what plans, if any, there are to switch to a cleaner energy source.

“While we are encouraged to see the NZ government openly acknowledge the climate crisis with its declaration, this is not sufficient or worthy of congratulations on its own- rapid and fair action that leads to measurable improvement is what is urgently needed. And we’d rather see planning which follows proper process to protect vulnerable groups and ensure climate justice,” said OraTaiao Co-convenor Dr Coffey. “Really well planned climate action could provide co- benefits by reducing health problems and inequities – for example - the air quality improvements from stopping burning fossil fuels improve health.”

Coal boiler in NZ hospital - image 2020

Climate Change Commission consultation 2021

The Climate Change Commission will be consulting with the public from 1 February until 14 March 2021 on the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions budgets, Nationally Determined Contribution and biogenic methane. This is significant for the future of climate change action in New Zealand and we need to ensure that health and equity are a major consideration in the budgets and advice to government.

According to the Climate Change Commission website, the consultation will cover: "The proposed first three emissions budgets and guidance on the first emissions reduction plan, advising the Government on how the emissions budgets could be met; Whether Aotearoa’s first Nationally Determined Contribution is compatible with contributing to the global efforts to limit warming above 5°C above pre-industrial levels; Advice on what potential reductions in biogenic methane might be needed in the future (this is not a review of current targets)."

To become more familiar with the work of the Climate Change Commission join their free online seminars:

Auckland Council to consult on its climate plan in 2021

Auckland Council is developing a climate plan for Auckland founded on three key elements to drive climate action: an overarching Tāmaki response, a focus on clear greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, and preparing Auckland for the impacts of climate change. The outcomes of this work will be open for public consultation 22 February and 22 March 2021 as part of the 10-year budget (long-term plan). In the meantime sign an open letter here to decarbonise Auckland’s transport by 2030.

Image by Ryan Anderson/Stuff

Climate Change Mitigation Policies and Co-Impacts on Indigenous Health: A Scoping Review

A new article by Dr Rhys Jones and Dr Alex Macmillan finds that while climate change mitigation policies can either facilitate or hinder progress towards health equity, and can have particular implications for Indigenous health, “gaps in existing research and policy mean that there is insufficient evidence to inform climate mitigation action that can uphold Indigenous rights and contribute to health equity. In order to address these gaps, research must centralise Indigenous worldviews, methodologies, realities and priorities. As underlined by our analysis of the three studies in this review that adopted Indigenous methodologies, such research examines the issues through a distinctive lens that generates unique and important insights.” Read the article here

International news

Climate change is claiming lives – Lancet Countdown 2020 report

The Lancet Countdown’s fifth annual report tracks 40+ indicators on links between health and climate change, presenting the most worrying outlook to date as key trends worsen. For example, the impact of extremes of heat continues to rise in every region in the world with 2019 seeing a record 2.9 billion above-baseline days of heat wave exposure affecting over 65s–almost twice the previous high. Right now, people around the world face increasing extremes of heat, food and water insecurity, and changing patterns of infectious diseases. Already disempowered groups within and between countries are and will bear the greatest burden and no country, including New Zealand, is immune from the health impacts of climate change.

“The Lancet report is yet further confirmation that we need to take bold and urgent action to ensure reduced disruption to lives and livelihoods and as a matter of social and health justice. We know that climate change increases the chances of more extreme weather – and this year in NZ we have seen droughts and flooding taking its toll on local communities,” said OraTaiao Co-convenor Dr Coffey.

Paris Agreement turns 5 but no new climate action from New Zealand

As the Paris Agreement turned 5 years and leaders met to announce their plans to reduce emissions, New Zealand was widely criticised for no new climate action announcements. OraTaiao Co-convenor, Dr Dermot Coffey, told Stuff news that whilst government actions to curb emissions could have benefits for health and equity, "nothing in the Government's actions so far has suggested they will be taking advantage of these opportunities.” 

Whilst many countries have reduced emissions since 1990, the emissions in New Zealand continue to grow (see graph by Newsroom).

Health Professionals Urged to Rise to the “Fierce Urgency” of the Climate Crisis

Although the United Nation's climate change conference - COP26 - may be a year away, health professionals and their organisations must begin mobilising now if they hope to influence the outcomes, according to a call to action published in The Journal of Climate Change and Health. Authored by members of the Board of Directors of the Global Climate and Health Alliance:

“Health professionals must join the growing global community of science-based advocates working to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Fulfilling our commitment to protecting and improving the health of all people necessitates a diverse and broad coalition of actors. We must advocate and build support for transforming the world’s energy, transportation, agriculture and other land use systems, fast enough to protect human health and repair the climate system on which it depends. As health professionals, we must help build the public and political will necessary to achieve these aims, just as we work to end addiction and stop vaccine-preventable disease.”

NZ Climate strikes 2019 - image by OraTaiao member Paul Currant

BMJ calls for urgent, equitable climate action

The British Medical Journal has published an editorial calling for an urgent response to climate change. "Climate action is essential for successfully tackling the other pressing global challenges affecting health, such as poverty and universal health coverage. Climate change (is) threatening to increasingly undermine health gains and widen inequalities. Climate action, equity, health, and economic goals are dependent and reinforce one another”

"Long term, mitigating the health effects of climate change and minimising health system disruptions will improve health equity and benefit populations in profound ways that haven’t yet been fully quantified. Both the covid-19 pandemic and climate change bind the world—and the health community—together in a shared fate and common destiny. The health community must recognise this connectedness and harness its collective power. Together, we can galvanise the political will required to finally fill the prescription for better health and equity through climate action". Read BMJ editorial here.

Food and climate declaration in advance of COP26

Subnational governments are joining Glasgow, Scotland, by committing to tackle the climate emergency through integrated food policies and a call on national governments to act. They are working to gain more signatories ahead of the UN international climate conference COP26 which will take place in Glasgow in November 2021. Part of the commitment is about taking a food systems approach to climate change:

“Food touches on many different policy areas and this often leads to policy contradictions and friction. A food systems approach makes it easier to develop coherent policies, address tensions and trade-offs, and deliver the food systems transformation needed to tackle urgent environmental and nutritional challenges. It considers the range of actors and interactions involved in producing, manufacturing, supplying, consuming and disposing of food, while recognizing their profound interconnections with public health and the underlying socio-cultural, economic, biophysical, and institutional factors that shape our food systems.

Tracking infectious diseases in a warming world

An article by Kris A Murray and colleagues in the British Medical Journal illustrates how “climate-sensitive infectious diseases” are being used as climate change indicators to help stimulate and inform public health responses to climate change. See here.

NSW Ambulance's third busiest day on record amid extreme heatwave

According to 9 news, ambulance NSW in Australia recorded its third busiest day on record on 29 November as extreme heatwave conditions persisted across the state. This is an unfortunate example of how extreme weather can impact health services. See here

Photo by Camilo Jimenez, Unsplash

In health sector, surgery is major contributor to climate change

“Surgery is resource intensive and contributes substantially to greenhouse-gas emissions within the health sector,” according to a Lancet article co-authored by Aaron Bernstein. “And as lifesaving procedures become increasingly available around the world, the climate impact could get worse.” Read more here. 

Six steps to both greener and better primary care

The BMJ has published a good, quick summary of immediate changes that need to be made in primary care. Healthcare is responsible for about 5% of NZ's total emissions and most primary care emissions are from clinical practice. See here.

Good news, interesting links, books

High tide don’t hide

A feature documentary by the Rebel Film Collective on the student climate strikes is still in the making: “Driven by the climate crisis, five teenagers in New Zealand join the global student protests. But when challenged by Pasifika students the movement has to confront its racial prejudices to lead one of the biggest strikes in the country’s history.”

The documentary has already been filmed and the Rebel Film Collective is crowdfunding to pay their editor. See here 

Images from

“Imagining Decolonisation”

A new NZ book about decolonisation: “Decolonisation is a term that alarms some, and gives hope to others. It is an uncomfortable and often bewildering concept for many New Zealanders.

“This book seeks to demystify decolonisation using illuminating, real-life examples. By exploring the impact of colonisation on Māori and non-Māori alike, Imagining Decolonisation presents a transformative vision of a country that is fairer for all.” See here. 

Solving NZ’s environmental crisis

In ecologist Mike Joy’s new book “Mountains to sea: Solving New Zealand’s Freshwater Crisis”, he writes on one simple solution to NZ’s environmental crisis – fewer cows. “The problems faced by New Zealand’s environment, particularly freshwaters and soils are wicked, complex and intertwined. After struggling with these issues for a half a lifetime, it strikes me with great clarity that if you look at each in isolation they seem intractable; but when you grasp that there could be one single solution that addresses them all, then suddenly there is a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel,” writes Joy.

“When multiple gains can be made for the cost of a single action, and the combined gains far outweigh the single cost of that one action, the next move is obvious. When it comes to the freshwater crisis, a single solution does exist – simply, reducing farming intensity: less cows.” Read more here


Ideas for meat free snacks loaded with iron

The meatless Monday campaign website is full of ideas for meat free recipes. See here recipes for snacks high in iron such as a ‘Zippy black bean dip’ and black bean brownies with dark chocolate!  

Image from

REMINDER: Research to action: the science of drawdown

The Project Drawdown conference will take place online 5-9 January 2021.  It will explore the physical effects of climate change and how these are linked to social institutions; and how implementing climate solutions produces positive co-benefits to society, the economy, and the planet.  See here


Sign in to comment

Recent responses