It has been a dispiriting time for climate and health advocacy in Aotearoa.
On one hand, our national emissions have shown an ongoing drop from 2019, with that year likely to be the peak emission year for the country.
However, the drop is far too slow at present to achieve our intermediate climate targets in 2030 as we move towards an overall target of a zero-carbon country by 2050.
Our government’s Emissions Reduction Plan and National Adaptation Plans are nearly devoid of any consideration of the health risks from climate change and the health (and health economic) benefits from well-designed climate action. Antarctic winter sea-ice is at all-time recorded lows, and this summer’s El Niño will almost certainly make 2023 the hottest recorded year ever…so far.
Global shocks like the Russian invasion of Ukraine and cost-of-living increases have shifted media and political attention here away from climate change. Climate disasters such as the flooding in Auckland and on the East Coast this year were again treated as mostly one-off incidents rather than examples of what will become more and more frequent in years to come.
Prime minister Chris Hipkins’ “policy bonfire” earlier this year included many of the already-insufficient policies Labour had brought in over the past three years. The International Energy Agency, hardly an organisation at the forefront of environmental protection over the years, has highlighted in the past month how quickly a switch to renewable energy production is happening internationally, and that further development of gas and oil fields is not necessary. And yet, we have our main opposition party, National under leader Christopher Luxon, looking to reopen and expand fossil fuel exploration in New Zealand waters.