No nuclear-free moment but a healthy emissions reduction plan still possible

No nuclear-free moment but a healthy emissions reduction plan still possible

MEDIA STATEMENT, 18 November 2021

Was NZ-Aotearoa’s appearance at the world’s climate conference COP26 our nuclear-free moment? “Definitely not,” said OraTaiao Co-convenor Dr Dermot Coffey, “but the good news is that the government can vastly improve on its COP26 failings by putting in place an emissions reduction plan that achieves a healthier, more resilient and more equitable Aotearoa.”

This month the government is consulting on its emissions reduction plan which will lay out climate action for the next 15 years and OraTaiao has prepared a submission guide.

“Our government needs to understand we can make huge health gains from well designed cuts to climate pollution. If emissions cuts are done in the right way across sectors such as transport, buildings and food systems we would see health gains giving relief to our already stretched health services, helping to reduce rates of heart disease, cancer, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal disease, respiratory disease, motor vehicle injuries, and mental illness,” said Dr Coffey.

“There are similar exciting gains from investing within Aotearoa and working in Tiriti partnership as we move nearer to net zero emissions resilience this decade. Yet right now, our government's lack of ambition means we run the risk of being rapidly outpaced by the rest of the world."

Dr Coffey said much of Aotearoa’s appearance at COP26 was same-old, including runner-up Fossil of the Day yet again and signing up to the Global Methane Pledge of 30 per cent cuts by 2030 while continuing with our 10 per cent methane target.

“We really do expect to see a step up now with this emissions reduction plan. At COP26, our country showed up with a commitment which utterly failed to take responsibility for our past climate pollution. As a relatively wealthy country, we are expected to do much more at home than we have agreed to and after the release of the World Health Organisation’s Special COP26 report and the health sector’s recent letter sent to the Prime Minister, the health sector had hoped for better. 

“Aotearoa can still put a plan in place that results in real climate pollution cuts and invests in a fairer healthier future here at home” says Dr Coffey. Public submissions close on the government’s draft Emissions Reduction Plan on 24 November, which will become Aotearoa’s climate protection plan next May. 

“Despite our COP26 disaster” concludes Dr Coffey, “this plan is Aotearoa’s next best chance to invest in our country, invest in health and secure net zero resilience much sooner.” 

OraTaiao asks for a healthy emissions reduction plan.
From left to right: Rebecca
Sinclair, RN Exec and College of Nurses; Tommy Hayes, Medical Student; Jamie Hosking PHMS; Anne Sears PHMS; David Sinclair PHMS

Media Spokesperson: Dr. Dermot Coffey 021 0267 5452

Dr Dermot Coffey ([email protected]) is a General Practitioner in Christchurch, and Co-Convenor of OraTaiao: New Zealand Climate and Health Council.

Notes to editors

OraTaiao submission guide to the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan
See here:

Government’s Emission Reduction Plan:
"Te hau mārohi ki anamata Transitioning to a low-emissions and climate-resilient future: Have your say and shape the emissions reduction plan"  See  

Climate Action Network International Fossil of the Day - 10 November 2021

Health professional letter to the Prime Minister ahead of COP26 – October 2021 
Letter to Prime Minister Ardern, copied to the Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson and Climate Change Minister James Shaw and signed by the College of Nurses Aotearoa NZ, New Zealand Nurses Organisation, New Zealand Medical Association, Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and New Zealand Society of Anaesthetists. See:


Public health and our climate change response

WHO’s former Director General, Dr Margaret Chan stated earlier this year: “Health benefits will outweigh the costs of mitigation policies, even without considering the longer-term health and economic benefits of avoiding more severe climate change”. See

Detailed modelling on NDCs and health in nine countries showed, “a greater consideration of health in the NDCs and climate change mitigation policies has the potential to yield considerable health benefits as well as achieve the ‘well below 2°C’ commitment across a range of regional and economic contexts”. See 

 The World Health Organisation has produced a special report setting out priority actions from the global health community to governments and policy makers, including some case studies. See

Climate change is a health crisis
Human-caused climate change is a serious and urgent threat to human health. Climate change and its environmental manifestations (e.g. warmer temperatures, more heat waves, altered rainfall patterns, more extreme weather such as heavy rainfall events and/or drought, tropical storms, sea-level rise) result in many risks to human health, both direct and indirect, that are recognised by world health authorities and leading medical journals alike. 

See an editorial published in over 200 health journals in September, “Call for emergency action to limit global temperature increases, restore biodiversity, and protect health”

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