Newly appointed climate change commission a crucial step with major expertise gap

Newly appointed climate change commission a crucial step with major expertise gap

MEDIA STATEMENT, 18 December 2019

The newly appointed climate change commission is an important step towards New Zealand being able to put the necessary policies in place to protect our health and wellbeing from climate change, but it lacks the full expertise to bring about the transformative change that New Zealand needs to meet its climate change commitments to ensure our safety and well-being into the future, according to Dr Alexandra Macmillan, Co-convenor, OraTaiao: NZ Climate and Health Council.

“It’s encouraging to see the inclusion of strong Māori leadership on the new commission. The commission also has expertise in climate science and adaptation, classical economics and in agribusiness, but what is missing is people who understand the impacts of climate change on our health and wellbeing, as well as how transformative change happens in society. It’s not just business and industry that has to adapt,” said Dr Macmillan.

“Unfortunately, New Zealand’s policies are still insufficient to reduce emissions to a level below 1.5 degrees, and that is even with the Zero Carbon Act. In order to strengthen our policies the commissions needs expertise in policy, and also in health and equity.”

Government climate action is measured against the globally agreed Paris Agreement of “holding warming well below 2 degrees, and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees” by the Climate Action Tracker, with the latest update on 2 December showing NZ’s policies as 'insufficient'. 

 “The commission will need to make substantive changes such as moving government subsidies away from polluting industries and into supporting low income households in a healthy and just transition. It will also need to lead in identifying win-win policies for health, equity and the environment, such as the recent government announcement of discounted e-bikes for public sector workers. Getting people out of cars and onto bikes, including e-bikes, brings significant health benefits and helps reduce the impact of climate change.  However, we need to see many more policies like this across all the big emitting sectors,” said Dr Macmillan.

“Health and wellbeing expertise is missing from the commission and yet health is the sector that is working for the wellbeing and health of our population, as well as being a massive sector that will be affected by climate change.”


Media Spokesperson: Dr Alex Macmillan, Mob. 021 322 625

Dr Alex Macmillan ([email protected]) is a Public Health Physician and Senior Lecturer at the University of Otago and Co-Convenor of OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council.


Notes to editors:

Government announcement on Climate Change Commission appointments (17 December 2019): 

Government announcement on discounted electric bikes for public sector workers: 

Link to the New Zealand Climate Action Tracker Update (2 Dec 2019):

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