30 January 2020
The Government’s announcement that it is committed to prioritising ending coal-burning for schools and hospitals is welcomed by health workers who have long been calling for such a move.
“Coal burning by schools and hospitals is hugely contradictory. At the same time as teaching robust science and wellbeing to children, some schools are polluting the climate, as well as causing local air pollution, harming the current and future health of their students”, says Dr Alex Macmillan, co-convenor of OraTaiao: NZ Climate & Health Council.
“Hospitals burning coal means we are giving healthcare with one hand, while taking health away with the other. This breaches the fundamental ethic of healthcare: first do no harm”, she said. “For many healthcare workers it is an untenable position to be working on caring for patients in organisations that are knowingly harmful to the local community and to the environmental building blocks of human health.”
The decision to end coal-burning by public institutions, starting with hospitals and schools, will save lives and sick days, as well as aligning public sector action with our international obligations to leave a healthy and safe climate for our children.
“But the commitment of funding is only a drop in the bucket for what is needed. Overall, the infrastructure fund favours further climate and health harmful investments, particularly new roads. Drawing a line under new roads would allow us to use the savings to support a rapid and just transition to a society free of climate pollution. Further funding is now needed urgently for the schools and hospitals still needing to complete the transition away from coal,” said Dr Macmillan.
Media spokesperson: Dr Alex Macmillan (email@example.com) 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.