Matariki 2023 Newsletter Pānui

Matariki 2023 Newsletter Pānui

Kia ora --

A busy month for everyone involved in climate and health advocacy has just passed. The highlight was definitely the Climate Health and Sustainable Healthcare in Aotearoa Conference last week. It was a brilliantly run example of how in-person, hub and online attendance can work. If it was a relentless and pretty exhausting couple of days, the conference was also an opportunity to celebrate the work that has been done and to inspire the next round of climate action. It was a reminder also of how much more we have to do and of the interwoven challenges of colonisation, health inequity and climate change. Matariki gives us the chance for inward contemplation, to reflect on the ongoing effects of the past and to plan for how we will remedy them in the future.

With the conference over, our thoughts now turn towards the big two climate events of the latter part of the year. COP28, billed as the “Health COP”, and the general election in Aotearoa. It’s somewhat trite to say that every election is a climate election, but looking here at the daffodils in Hagley Park in Ōtautahi blooming in June, and the Southern Alps remarkably devoid of snow, it’s self-evidently true. Now’s the time to check your voting registration and discuss with family and friends about the importance of voting for health, climate and equity.

Ngā mihi nui

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

Coming together for planetary health 
Over 230 people gathered in Pōneke and online around the motu in the week before the Matariki holiday to deepen our understanding of mātauranga Māori and re-energise our commitment to environmental sustainability and climate resilience. Organised by Climate Health Aotearoa, Sustainable Healthcare Aotearoa, the Climate and Health Alliance and OraTaiao, the Climate Health and Sustainable Healthcare in Aotearoa Conference 2023 was a resounding success. 

The opening session, “Enhancing the mauri – Strategy”, featured OraTaiao Co-convenor Summer Wright with a seminal kōrero on “The Contribution of Mātauranga to Climate Health Outcomes in Aotearoa.” In the afternoon, OraTaiao Board member Silvia Purdie presented her poster, “Manaaki: A Framework for Sustainability and Climate Strategy.” 

The two-day Conference featured a dazzling line-up of other presenters – too many to mention, including a healthy contingent of OraTaiao members. Video recordings of conference sessions, courtesy of University of Otago Te Whare Wānanga o Otago, will be available online soon. 

Summer Wright at CHSH23Summer Wright⎪Photo: Grant Brookes

Silvia Purdie at CHSH23Silvia Purdie⎪Photo: Grant Brookes

Putting health and equity into the Emissions Reduction Plan 
In releasing its draft advice on the second Emissions Reduction Plan in April, the Climate Change Commission issued a warning – our next climate target is at risk. While Government modeling had shown that the second budget was within reach if the policies from the first emissions plan for 2022 to 2025 were implemented, the Commission disagreed. Further action will be needed to meet the emissions target covering 2026 to 2030, it said, against the Government’s expectations.  

OraTaiao made a submission this month on this draft advice to the Government for its second Emissions Reduction Plan. We commended the Commission in offering better recognition of the health co-benefits of climate action and the increased discussion of this throughout the draft advice. We strongly agreed with the Commission that, “Ultimately, a fair, inclusive, and equitable transition means pursuing in parallel issues of social and economic equity and tackling climate change.” OraTaiao urged a co-governance approach for Aotearoa so that Māori may co-lead the journey to a sustainable future for all. 

We also made specific recommendations on a wide range of issues, including Emissions Trading Scheme settings, pricing of agricultural emissions at the same rates as other industries, the over-reliance on forestry for carbon removals, introducing a Carbon Border Mechanism, integrating walkways, cycleways, generous car share and easy public transport access in urban areas, reducing aviation emissions, retrofitting of all rental housing well before 2030, prioritising and widely promoting more ambitious gross emissions reductions, a just transition to public and locally-owned, nature-friendly, renewable electricity and ending all new oil, gas and coal exploration and extraction on land and at sea.

Meeting with Climate Change Minister James Shaw
OraTaiao joined with our partners in the New Zealand Climate Action Network at the end of June for a meeting with Climate Change Minister James Shaw. It was a wide-ranging, in-confidence discussion, covering New Zealand's reliance on international credits trading for meeting the targets in our Nationally Determined Contribution, Government responses to the Climate Change Commission's advice and draft Emissions Reduction Plans, tackling methane emissions, allying with the Pacific, Government engagement with NGOs, the public and civil society and the current review of the Emissions Trading Scheme including a redesign of the permanent forest category. It was a very useful engagement. 

First steps with the new Public Health bodies
by Dr Dermot Coffey and Summer Wright
OraTaiao was pleased to be present at an inaugural meeting between the new public health bodies and NGOs on 3 July – the first of its kind in a reformed/reforming health system. We heard from Andrew Old, Deputy Director-General in Te Pou Hauora Tūmatanui Public Health Agency and Nick Chamberlain with the National Public Health Service in Te Whatu Ora as well as Selah Hart from Te Aka Whai Ora and Deborah Woodley from Commissioning in Te Whatu Ora. These agencies will all have an important role to play in our country’s climate response, both within the health system, and more widely in the case of Te Pou Hauora Tūmatanui in order to optimise the health benefits of climate action.

It is fair to say that they are all at the beginning of their climate journey, and while it was pleasing to hear an acknowledgement of climate change as this century’s biggest public health challenge, there is a fair distance to go yet in order to make climate change one of their strategic and working priorities. OraTaiao will be able to support wherever possible to make this come about.

Liberate the lane – it's just a smidge of the bridge!
Not forgetting the critical importance of action at the local level, OraTaiao has complemented its national advocacy this month with support for Bike Auckland's campaign for a dedicated lane on the Harbour Bridge protected from traffic, so that people can freely walk, scoot, cycle and roll across the Waitematā Harbour. 

OraTaiao Board member and Nurse Practitioner Mikey Brenndorfer commutes regularly across the harbour bridge to work on the North Shore several times per week. He says, “Finally having the ability to cycle to work would be a hugely positive improvement to connect the North Shore with the rest of the city, in a way that reduces our impact on the climate while increasing the health of the population.”

Come and join OraTaiao's Climate Action Kōrero
Alongside our advocacy, OraTaiao has kept up our member engagement and learning opportunities through our Climate Action Kōrero webinar series. In June, we were joined by Professor Quentin Atkinson from the University of Auckland Waipapa Taumata Rau. Quentin explained why purported psychological barriers to climate action are wrong and why the policy recommendations based on this thinking is potentially dangerous. He presented recent research about human motivation, and looked at the real barriers to climate action we have to overcome. The recording of his kōrero is now online here

Climate Action Kōrero 4 with Professor Quentin Atkinson

This month, we’ll be talking about a hot topic – the mood for climate action on the farm. We'll be joined by Bryan Gibson, the editor of Farmers Weekly, who featured in a thought-provoking interview on RNZ's Mediawatch late last year. To join the webinar at 7.30pm on Tuesday 18 July, register here


2. National happenings

An effective treatment for election fever
Election season is now upon us. While the official start of the campaign period is 14 July, many in the health sector would say that the usual seasonal ills have been with us for some time. There’s been racist dog-whistling over bilingual road signs, more frequent beating of the “law and order” drum, mud-slinging against prominent wāhine Māori and an uptick in the belittling of young people. 

Launches of party policy for health, climate action and enacting Te Tiriti are still thin on the ground. The National Party was one of the first off the blocks, releasing its plan for reducing agricultural emissions. Key policy actions include removing restrictions on genetically modified organisms, keeping agriculture out of the Emissions Trading Scheme and delaying the introduction of emissions pricing for a further five years and limiting the conversion of farmland to forestry. The Green Party released its manifesto last weekend. Dedicated plans for emissions reduction and for adaptation embrace an equitable, Tiriti-based framework. However, as Greenpeace Aotearoa have highlighted, climate action is woven throughout the 48-page document, with significant policies for curbing emissions like phasing out synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and banning palm kernel expeller contained in the section on food production. We await full policy announcements from all parliamentary parties. 

For the general population, the main symptoms associated with election fever include cognitive dissonance, as prominent politicians try to convince us that black is white as they ask for our votes. OraTaiao has an effective treatment for this. As we did in 2020, we will once again survey the main parties on key questions, analyse their responses with the assistance of a panel of politically non-aligned experts and produce a pre-election scorecard which ranks the claims of the various parties against objective criteria. If you’re interested in being part of this work, please email us at [email protected]

Rural primary care as a voice for climate action
Information on climate change effects on health in rural primary care is sparse. It is known that climate change will exacerbate poor access to health care and other goods and services, as well as pre-existing urban–rural socioeconomic inequalities. For Māori, climate change will further exacerbate the loss of traditional lands, resources, food gathering sites, and traditional practices already caused by colonisation. 

Rural primary care has an important role to play in protecting health from climate change for rural populations. While many farmers are influenced by agri-business leaders, many are also innovating in continued care for land, water, climate, and community health. The voices of respected rural health workers could therefore add weight to rural support for climate action. 

A newly published article in Family Practice journal presents the findings of the first national survey to explore rural general practice understanding and experience of climate change, conducted by a research team led by Krystyna Glavinovic of the University of Auckland Waipapa Taumata Rau and including OraTaiao members Alexandra Macmillan, Kyle Eggerton and Rhoena Davis. Read the informative open access article below. 

3. International news

Bonn Climate Conference insulated from the heat 
Nearly 5,000 government and civil society representatives gathered in Germany in early June, as forest fire smoke blanketed North America, daily heat-related deaths doubled in Northern India and thousands of dead fish washed up on Texas beaches. 

The Bonn Climate Change Conference was tasked with laying the groundwork for the 28th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), due to kick off in Dubai at the end of November. As the envoys gathered, average global surface air temperatures were more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Mean temperatures had temporarily peaked above the 1.5°C threshold before, but this was a first in a Northern Hemisphere summer. Yet as Greenpeace East Asia Senior Climate Adviser Li Shuo told Reuters news agency, the talks were “very detached from what was going on outside of the building in Bonn.”

The Founding Co-Director of the University of California Center for Climate, Health and Equity, Arianne Teherani, and the Center’s Managing Director, Sapna Thottathil, attended the conference. “Throughout the Bonn negotiations,” they write, “there were ongoing debates about the common and differentiated responsibilities for climate change, the ‘robustness’ of existing climate science, and the most equitable solutions moving forward. Several working sessions ended without countries’ consensus, including a session on agriculture and food insecurity and another regarding how to acknowledge the sixth and latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report.

“It’s one thing to read about this lack of consensus in an article. It’s another thing—and quite distressing—to witness failure to agree firsthand.”

Despite the lack of agreement among politicians and diplomats, global health sector leaders – including representatives from OraTaiao’s parent body, the Global Health and Climate Alliance – united in Bonn to prepare for what will be a first for UN climate summits – a “Health Day” at COP28. 

The world’s Indigenous peoples speak
Across the Atlantic Ocean from Germany, Indigenous leaders had met a few weeks earlier in New York City, on the traditional land of the Lenape peoples. The 2023 UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues heard testimony from Indigenous groups about the impact of Western climate strategies on Indigenous territories, resources and people. 

Mining for minerals such as nickel, lithium, cobalt and copper – the resources needed for products like electric car batteries – are presenting conflicts in tribal communities in the United States and around the world. Representatives of the Indigenous Saami peoples of Finland, Russia, Norway and Sweden, raised awareness about the “green colonialism” driving other harmful sustainability projects, such as the Fosen onshore windfarm that was built despite a supreme court ruling in Norway in defense of Sami reindeer herding grounds. 

Forum Chair Dario Mejía Montalvo, who belongs to the Zenú peoples of San Andrés Sotavento in Colombia, summed up the message of the Forum: “Let us not forget that climate is the language of Mother Earth.”

UNPFII 2023 opening ceremonyUNPFII 2023 opening ceremony⎪Photo: United Nations

An Australian first 
In brighter international news, decades of denial about climate change and its impacts on health are coming to an end across the Tasman. OraTaiao's Australian partner, the Climate and Health Alliance, secured commitments from the Labor Party at the 2022 election to develop the National Health and Climate Strategy. The draft Strategy has now been published. Consultation closes on 24 July.

The first of six principles informing the paper is that “First Nations knowledge and experience must be central to decision- making on climate and health policy at all levels.” The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation has already begun sharing perspectives on improvements needed in the draft, including an initial analysis from Croakey Health Media. 

CAHA Founder and Strategic Projects Director, Fiona Armstrong comments, "The Federal Government has commenced consultation on the first ever National Health and Climate Strategy. This is a good start, but as is the Strategy will fall far short of what is needed to protect human health.

“Right now, CAHA is mobilising health stakeholders to advocate to strengthen the Strategy. We’re meeting with politicians and policymakers at national, state and territory levels, and activating health institutions and experts to support our recommendations.”

Lancet Regional Health: ‘Health benefits from US Inflation Reduction Act’
The US$369 billion Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed by Congress and signed by President Biden in August 2022, is by far the largest investment the United States has ever made to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and slow the pace of climate change. But as a comment in the July 2023 issue of The Lancet Regional Health points out, an overlooked benefit of the IRA is that it will also reduce air pollution. 

Despite the 77% reduction in air pollutant emissions achieved since passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970, air pollution is still responsible for an estimated 197,000 deaths each year in the United States. The largest and most immediate health benefit of the IRA will likely be in the prevention of such premature deaths and air-pollution-related disease. 


4. Good news, interesting links, books

Coal boilers going – and not just in hospitals
We’re happy to spotlight a good news story from the end of June which received scant media attention. Following on from the announcement of an end to coal-fired boilers in hospitals and schools by the end of 2025 (reported in the last OraTaiao Newsletter) and the plan to halve emissions at the Glenbrook Steel Mill, the Government has now published new rules requiring local councils to factor in climate change impacts caused by industrial process heat when making resource consent decisions.

Currently, more than half of the heat used to process raw materials into consumables, such as paper and dairy products, comes from fossil fuels. These make up about 8% of Aotearoa New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. The new rules also ban the installation of new low-to-medium temperature industrial coal heating devices from 27 July this year and set a date of 2037 for the phase-out of existing coal-fired heat industrial heat sources. 

Overall this will reduce annual emissions by about the same amount as taking 100,000 cars off the road. As highlighted by the Lancet Regional Health article above, it will also reduce the air pollution which is responsible for premature deaths and hospital admissions for cardiovascular and respiratory disease. Tau kē nei! 

What’s going on under the weather? 
James Renwick is a name that will be familiar to many OraTaiao members. As a Professor in the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, James has been a lead author for Assessment Report 4 and 5 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and he was a coordinating lead author for the most recent Assessment Report 6. 

People without the time or inclination to digest around 10,000 pages of physical science in IPCC reports are now in luck. James has published an accessible, 307-page summary of what New Zealand's changing climate means for our everyday lives. This one really is for a general audience, and James is promoting it widely (including on TVNZ’s Q+A with Jack Tame – watch the interview below). 

Labelled the “Ultimate book on the complex topic”, Under The Weather – A Future Forecast for New Zealand is out now from HarperCollins at your favourite bookseller. 

Under the Weather, by James Renwick


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

OraTaiao: New Zealand Climate and Health Council

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