There is always a flurry of climate advocacy activity at this time of the year, and 2022 is no different. COP27 begins at the end of October in Egypt, and the annual Lancet Countdown Report will be released in the next few days. The latter will continue to highlight the evolving evidence of the climate impacts on health, and the opportunities for health and wellbeing improvements that well-designed climate action can give. We expect to see COP27 continue the work done last year in Glasgow, when health finally began to move to become a core part of the international climate discussions.
Domestically, our big piece of work will be in the discussions around the Government’s proposals on agricultural emissions. Given that the agricultural sector is responsible for nearly half of our overall climate emissions, it is absolutely essential that it is included in our climate response in a fair and comprehensive way.
OraTaiao is very pleased to have started our Climate Action Kōrero series, and we hope to see you at our AGM online on the 24th of November at 7.30pm. This gives us an opportunity to look back over the last year with a view to informing our work in 2023 and beyond. Nominations for the Exec Board are also more than welcome at this time – please email us if you’d like to discuss this further.
Ngā mihi nui
Dermot and Summer,
Co-convenors, OraTaiao: NZ Climate & Health Council
October 2022 Newsletter
1. Update on OraTaiao activities
2. National happenings
3. International news
4. Good news, interesting links, books
1. Update on OraTaiao activities
Climate Action Kōrero
OraTaiao's series of monthly webinars is now in full swing. The first OraTaiao Climate Action Kōrero in September featured Alex Dyer of Cycle Wellington Paihikara Ki Pōneke, speaking about the opportunities of rethinking and transforming how we move around in order to benefit health and the climate. This month, members of the OraTaiao Executive shared their individual expertise and wide-ranging contributions in health and climate change. The discussion after the speakers is often a highlight.
Launched as part of our new Strategic Plan 2022-24, our goal is to offer more opportunities for member engagement through regular forums like these. If you're unable to make it on the night, you can watch the recordings (here) on our new OraTaiao YouTube channel.
Reshaping streets, reviving regional rail
The last month has been a busy one for OraTaiao submitters – but busy in a good way. OraTaiao was pleased to see proposals from Te Manatū Waka Ministry of Transport and from Parliament's Transport and Infrastructure Committee which we could support.
Te Manatū Waka proposed some regulatory changes with the goal of “Reshaping Streets”. These will, if implemented correctly, contribute to improvements in physical and psychological well-being. We supported the overall aims of the draft changes, though we made recommendations where necessary to strengthen and expand on them.
OraTaiao also supported the focus of the Transport and Infrastructure Committee's inquiry into the future of passenger rail. We made some additional recommendations based on our concerns around equity, accessibility, integrated public and active transport across the country, and climate change.
Intergenerational Climate Strike – 23 September
Thousands of students around the country joined global protests last month demanding urgent action on climate change. Youth-led actions were held in Tāmaki Makaurau, Ngāmotu New Plymouth, Ōtautahi Christchurch and at Parliament. Spokespeople for School Strike for Climate Wellington said their demands included a ban on the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilisers, halving the herd of cows in Aotearoa, upgrading of cycleways and walkways, more free public transport and an end to coal and gas exploration. OraTaiao was proud to promote their events and join them.
- TVNZ: “Photos: Hundreds turn out for climate strikes across NZ”
- RNZ: “Thousands of students take part in school strike for climate: 'We want a future on the planet'”
OraTaiao at School Strike for Climate Wellington. Photos by Grant Brookes
New members, doing great things
OraTaiao's membership continues to grow. Among our new members this month is Wellington medical student Angad Chauhan. Along with his colleagues Isaac Bush and Ammar Manasawala, Angad has set up a Sustainability Social Group (SSG) to work within the University of Otago Wellington campus as well as Te Whatu Ora Capital Coast Hutt Valley. He submits this report:
“SSG is the brainchild of three medical students determined to see and bring meaningful social changes to their environment. Since its inception in February 2022, it has managed to boast over 30 active members to this day. It has become the first University of Otago student-led group promoting sustainability and climate action in Wellington.
SSG was formed to run various initiatives and social events with the purpose of raising awareness regarding sustainability and climate change and subsequently lead through actions to counteract these issues.
Currently, SSG is running a weekly street clean-up around Wellington Regional Hospital which has picked up significant support from students and staff alike. SSG is also trying to set up other initiatives such as battery and soft plastic recycling at the Wellington campus and access to planting and gardening initiatives for students. The group is also involved with 2DHB Staff Sustainability Network to ensure the student voice is heard in the hospital setting. SSG is extremely excited to work with OraTaiao to raise awareness and take action against climate change!”
Please contact us at [email protected] if you’d like to get in touch with Angad and the team.
Sustainability Social Group. Photo by Angad Chauhan
Save the date – OraTaiao AGM
OraTaiao will hold its 2022 Annual General Meeting at 7.30pm on Thursday the 24th of November. All members are warmly invited. As well as the usual AGM business and election of Officers, this year the Executive Board will lead discussions on updating the OraTaiao Constitution and on how we can better uphold the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We'll also have an exciting guest speaker, who will be announced soon. If you would like to join the OraTaiao Executive Board, now is the time to get your nominations in – please email us at [email protected] for more details.
2. National happenings
We need to have a talk about the cows
The long-awaited Government proposals for tackling agricultural emissions were finally released this month. Agricultural methane (from livestock) and nitrous oxide (from synthetic fertilisers and animal urine and dung) make up around half of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing these emissions is critical to Aotearoa's contribution to limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Last year, New Zealand signed up to the Global Methane Pledge, committing to reduce total biogenic methane emissions by 10 percent on 2017 levels by 2030 and by between 24 to 47 percent by 2050.
Meanwhile, the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health has said, “Transformation to healthy diets by 2050 will require substantial dietary shifts. Global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes will have to double, and consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will have to be reduced by more than 50%. A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits.” OraTaiao strongly endorses the EAT-Lancet Commission Report.
The Government claims that its proposals will enable New Zealand to meet its climate targets. Some climate campaigners are sceptical, with Greenpeace for example labelling them a “greenwash”.
OraTaiao has previously called for cuts in biogenic methane well in excess of those in the Global Methane Pledge, recommending a defined reduction in national herd numbers, along with a ban on new dairy conversions and support to re-convert existing farms. Urgent reductions in synthetic nitrogen fertilisers are also needed.
The Government proposals are complex. OraTaiao will be studying them carefully over the next few weeks and listening to our members and allies, in order to provide feedback to the Ministry for the Environment Manatū Mō Taiao by the consultation deadline on the 18th of November. If you have points you would like to see included in our submission, please send them to [email protected].
- NZ Herald: “Explained: How the Govt wants to price farm emissions"
- MfE: “Pricing agricultural emissions – Have your say”
'Climate change through a Māori lens'
Debates over the place of mātauranga Māori turned acrimonious last year, following a letter to the NZ Listener signed by seven prominent academics at Auckland University. The academics opposed a Government report which proposed, “to ensure parity for Mātauranga Maori with other bodies of knowledge credentialed by NCEA.” The ensuing responses polarised the scientific community.
OraTaiao policy commits our organisation to respecting and upholding mātauranga Māori. We share this article from the latest issue of on mas, the magazine for members of MAS – Medical Assurance Society, to help explain what this means in the climate context and how we can genuinely weave together these different ways of being and knowing.
- on mas: “Climate change through a Māori lens”
Healthy heating for Te Whatu Ora Southern
Following on from a Newsroom article in our last OraTaiao Newsletter, Greenpeace is now hosting a petition urging Te Whatu Ora Southern to implement a change in hospital boiler fuel to wood chips instead of lignite coal. As reported in the original article, Dr Matt Jenks and Dr Dermot Coffey of OraTaiao have previously pushed for a phase-out of coal boilers at our hospitals. You can now add your voice to this call, too.
- Greenpeace Community: “Use wood chip not lignite coal to heat Te Whatu Ora Southern hospital!”
Coal boiler at Te Whatu Ora Southern. Photo by Jenny Campbell
3. International news
Lancet Planetary Health: “A decolonial relational vision”
Former OraTaiao Co-convenors Dr Rhys Jones and Dr Alex MacMillan have collaborated with Auckland University Professor Papaarangi Reid in the newest issue of The Lancet Planetary Health. Their article raises fundamental questions about the field of planetary health and represents a weighty contribution towards its Indigenisation.
They challenge the anthropocentric orientation of health professionals when we advocate for climate action that advances “human wellbeing and social equity”, when we bow to an “apparent imperative for rapid, superficial responses” and when we work within “established norms, practices, and institutions, rather than engaging in the crucial work of subverting the system as a whole.”
The authors outline a broader conception of planetary health, grounded in an ecocentric approach that seeks solutions from Indigenous values, worldviews, and knowledge systems.
The article is hard to summarise and bound to shape the debate – which makes it highly recommended reading!
- Lancet Planetary Health: “Navigating fundamental tensions towards a decolonial relational vision of planetary health”
A global treaty to end fossil fuels
The global call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, signed by OraTaiao in August, is gaining traction. The proposed Treaty aims to end expansion of any new fossil fuel infrastructure and production, phase out existing production and use of fossil fuels in a fair and equitable manner and fast-track real solutions and a just transition.
The World Health Organization, the Global Climate and Health Alliance, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Healthcare Without Harm are asking health professionals worldwide to support the call. “Like the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control”, they say, “the proposed Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty would be an evidence-based international agreement to control a category of substances well-known to be harmful to human health.”
Over 350,000 individuals have signed up, along with thousands of legislators, cities and organisations. Vanuatu became the first nation to endorse the Treaty initiative at the UN General Assembly last month. It has since been endorsed by the European Parliament and by the first head of state from an oil-producing country, President José Ramos-Horta of Timor Leste.
This month's special issue of the British Medical Journal on the climate emergency contains an appeal for more health professionals to sign up to the call. In the latest issue of Lancet Planetary Health, meanwhile, Courtney Howard of Global Climate and Health Alliance writes, “From nuclear disarmament to tobacco control to mercury phase-out, the health sector has a history of advocating for healthy public policy on behalf of its patients. It is time for the planetary health community to apply time, money, and talent to the support of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
- BMJ: “Join the fight against fossil fuels”
- Lancet Planetary Health: “Why we need a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty”
- Sign the “Health professionals call for Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty” here
Counting down to the Lancet Countdown Report
Published annually in London, the Lancet Countdown is an international, multidisciplinary collaboration which monitors the evolving health profile of climate change. It provides an independent assessment of how Governments are delivering on their commitments under the Paris Agreement. The 2022 Lancet Countdown Report will be launched on the 27th of October (NZDT). OraTaiao will be attending the online launch event. More info about the launch and a registration link is available here.
4. Good news, interesting links, books
Reasons to be cheerful. 1, 2, 3...
Good news about climate and health is a bit hard to come by at the moment. But the climate and environment editor of Guardian Australia, Adam Morton, has found some good news worth sharing. “There is no shortage of things to say about what’s going wrong”, he writes. “But there is also evidence that action to combat the climate crisis is belatedly accelerating.” Like a cheerful hit song from Britain's Winter of Discontent, here are some things to be positive about today.
“The Climate Book”, by Greta Thunberg
The world's leading teenage climate activist is putting out a book. It's titled simply, The Climate Book.
The Climate Book, by Greta Thunberg
It's not the first one with Greta Thunberg's name on the cover – there are collections of her speeches, books co-written with members of her family, and others. But this one, bringing together over 100 expert contributors and due to be published by Allen Lane on the 27th of October, has been created by Greta herself. And her brutally honest, clear-sighted vision sears the page in a 3,000-word pre-release extract in The Guardian.
Greta has long had a marvellous way of making vast global systems comprehensible at an everyday level. She writes, “The fact that 3 billion people use less energy, on an annual per capita basis, than a standard American refrigerator gives you an idea of how far away from global equity and climate justice we currently are.”
And, “We need drastic, immediate, far-reaching emission cuts at the source. When your bathtub is about to overflow, you don’t go looking for buckets or start covering the floor with towels – you start by turning off the tap, as soon as you possibly can.”
Commenting on her role as one who tells the unpleasant truth, she confides, “It gives me no pleasure whatsoever to keep calling out the bullshit of our so-called leaders.” But, “much as I hate to admit it – Beyoncé was wrong. It is not girls who run the world. It is run by politicians, corporations and financial interests – mainly represented by white, privileged, middle-aged, straight cis men. And it turns out most of them are terribly ill suited for the job.”
“It will take many things for us to start facing this emergency”, concludes Greta, “but, above all, it will take honesty, integrity and courage.” Judging by this extract, The Climate Book has that in spades.
This newsletter was written by Grant Brookes.
OraTaiao: New Zealand Climate and Health Council