OraTaiao calls for healthier government response to climate advice

Christchurch, 9 June 2021 -- Responding to today’s release of the Climate Change Commission’s advice to the government on New Zealand’s climate ambitions, OraTaiao called on Minister for Climate Change Hon. James Shaw to safeguard the health of Aotearoa and step up to our fair share when the world meets in Glasgow this November to keep human-adaptable 1.5 degrees warming within reach.

The Climate Change Commission’s government advice sets out defined budgets between now and 2035 to cut NZ’s climate-damaging emissions. It also looks at whether Aotearoa’s contribution to the international effort to stay within 1.5 degrees of warming is sufficient (through our nationally determined contribution – NDC). Reputable independent international climate experts calculate that NZ’s fair share is almost ten times our commitment in our previously promised NDC.

“We welcome this first advice from the Climate Change Commission, which is starting to recognise Te Tiriti and health co-benefits. However, the advice sadly falls short of the healthy fair response needed to our global climate emergency this decade and its failure to address our agricultural emissions is a huge opportunity missed,” said OraTaiao Co-convenor, Dr Dermot Coffey. “Accelerating progress towards net zero emissions is the healthiest move that our Government can make for New Zealanders right now, and over this decade. Minister Shaw must put health and wellbeing at the centre of our climate response and rapidly scale up our climate protection promises to play a healthy, responsible role in November’s global climate conference.

"International research across half the world with three-quarters of global emissions (echoed by local evidence) shows that health-centred climate action pays off with better health and well-being plus reduced stress on stretched health services. That’s before we even count the economic costs of extreme weather events such as the recent state of emergency in my Canterbury region,” says Dr Coffey. "Above all, climate breakdown is about human health and well-being."

"As a country, we can certainly afford to do our fair share, stop free-loading, and be well on the way to net zero emissions this decade. Health professionals know safe, accessible walkways and cycleways are an easy way for more people to be more active, that plant-based meals are healthier and more environmentally friendly, and that climate-friendly homes are cheaper to warm, and protect our mokopuna from asthma and other illness. And we know that action must beTiriti o Waitangi-based – with shared values, decisions and resources. 

“What we need,” says Dr Coffey, “is for the Climate Change Minister to back our team of five million, listen to health science evidence, and let us all share the mahi, to secure a healthy hopeful climate-safe future for our country and our global neighbours.”



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 and references

Hamilton I, Kennard H, McCushin A, Hoglun-Isaksson L, Kiesewetter G, Lott M, et al. The public health implications of the Paris Agreement: a modelling study. Lancet Planet Health. 2021;5(2):e74-e83 (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(20)30249-7/fulltext)

 Former WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan in February this year has stated “achieving net zero emissions is the most important global health intervention now and for decades to come”, and (commenting on the Hamilton et al study) that “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.”

Fu-Chun MCF. Accelerating towards net zero emissions: the most important global health intervention. Lancet Planet Health. 2021;5(2):e64-e65. (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(20)30296-5/fulltext)

About OraTaiao: 

The New Zealand Climate and Health Council comprises health professionals in Aotearoa/New Zealand that is part of a worldwide movement of health professionals and health organisations urgently focusing on the health challenges of climate change and the health opportunities of climate action.


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