Health professionals back call for a NZ Climate Act


30 June 2016

Health professionals support the call for a legal framework that accelerates New Zealand’s action to address climate change.

Youth organisation Generation Zero have announced they will work with experienced lawyers to write a ‘Zero Carbon Act’ requiring NZ to get to zero carbon emissions by 2050.

They argue that a ‘Zero Carbon Act’ will ensure that present and future governments take the actions that are urgently needed to improve our climate future.

“As health professionals we recognise climate change as a public health emergency,” says Dr Rhys Jones of OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council. “A NZ legal framework that ensures a rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is critical if we are to respond effectively to this emergency,” says Dr Jones. 

“Any legal framework would need to consider health and fairness,” says Dr Jones. “The pathways we choose to get to zero carbon have the potential to significantly improve health, if well-planned.”

“For example, rapid moves to more walking, cycling and public transport will cut transport emissions, reduce air pollution, and boost physical activity - impacting obesity, diabetes, heart and lung disease, and cancer,” says Dr Jones.

“Carbon pricing mechanisms that recycle revenue back to families could be an important way to create a more equal society, which is recognised as important for a healthy and well- functioning nation,” says Dr Jones.

“The UK Climate Change Act has been successful in bringing about climate action, including in the UK National Health Service (NHS) – a large public sector emitter. The NHS has reduced carbon emissions by over 10% since 2007,” says Dr Jones.  “This is because the health sector is mandated to reduce emissions under the Climate Change Act”.

“NZ has signed the Paris Agreement on climate change but this is yet to translate into meaningful action. A well-planned legal framework would help us make this critical transition, and is also an exciting opportunity to improve health and fairness in NZ.”

Media Spokesperson: Dr Rhys Jones, Ph. 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 Climate and Health Council.

OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council are health professionals concerned with climate change as a serious public health threat. They also promote the positive health gains that can be achieved through action to address climate change. See:

About the Zero Carbon Act campaign:

NZ specific climate-health information in the NZ Medical Journal:
‘Health and equity impacts of climate change in Aotearoa-New Zealand, and health gains from climate action’.

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