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Docs say emissions trading scheme will hurt Kids

Doctors say emissions trading scheme will hurt our children

Senior doctors today said that the intended changes to New Zealand’s emissions trading scheme (ETS) will not only threaten our future survival but will be an extravagant waste of public funds, describing the legislation process as a fiasco.

The doctors, representing OraTaiao: NZ Climate & Health, a large group of senior doctors and other health professionals acting to prevent runaway climate change, say that the changes to New Zealand’s emissions trading scheme will harm health as well as the economy.

"The right scheme could benefit health, but proposed changes look set to do the opposite,” says a group spokesperson and Auckland surgeon Professor John McCall.

Professor McCall says he is stunned by yesterday’s announcement that the scheme will cost taxpayers so much, when we know that it won't reduce New Zealand’s high greenhouse gas emissions.

“Treasury’s estimate of a staggering $110 billion blow-out will mean funding of health and social services will be even more vulnerable. Future taxpayers will have to subsidise big wealthy polluters to the tune of tens of billions of dollars, which is outrageous. As long as taxpayers foot the bill there is no incentive for change, so no environmental benefits either,” he says.

“Runaway climate change is recognised as the leading health issue for this century, and doctors must speak out.”

Group co-convenor Dr Rhys Jones, a public health physician and Senior Lecturer in Maori Health at the University of Auckland, asks how honouring the Treaty of Waitangi in the ETS Act will happen when many Maori families will be hardest hit by the money movements.

“Right now the cost of food and fuel burden Maori, Pacific and low income families disproportionately. This ETS will make it worse. Arguments about power pricing, minor additions to home insulation and other things pale to insignificance when our tax contributions give powerful and vocal big emitters a licence to threaten the future for our tamariki, rangatahi and future generations,” says Dr Jones.

“What’s worse is the ETS fails to protect the most vulnerable communities from the effects of climate change. Maori communities will suffer because of poorer existing housing and community infrastructure, and economic reliance on threatened fishery and shellfish stocks. The further loss of cultural taonga will also be hard for iwi and hapu to bear, and negate any positive effects of Foreshore and Seabed Act repeal.”

OraTaiao is very concerned at how the Bill has been rushed through.

“Reading the Select Committee’s report, we fully agree that the way it has been handled seems chaotic and sidelines the democratic process,” says group member Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman.

“Poor process helps explain why the end result remains so flawed.”

The group’s calls for a better response from government follow recent articles in the New Zealand Medical Journal about costs to health of the ETS as proposed and its devastating effects, especially for poorer taxpayers. These articles explain how climate change will threaten not only the health sector, but also our very survival, with so little time left to act.

The doctors also call for the potential health costs and benefits of options to be counted, particularly the potential to benefit health, wellbeing (as well as the economy) through a well designed ETS.

NZ Climate and Health www.nzchg.webs.com (interim site, under development)

Background notes:

Professor John McCall is a surgeon at Auckland City Hospital and Clinical Professor of Surgery at the University of Auckland.

Dr Rhys Jones (Ngati Kahungunu) is a public health medicine specialist at the University of Auckland.

Professor Philippa Howden Chapman is at the Wellington School of Medicine.

The recent NZ Medical Journal lead editorial on the ETS is at http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/122-1305/3859.

The New Zealand Climate Change Response (Moderated Emissions Trading) Amendment Bill will undergo its Second Reading in Parliament today 17 November under urgency. The Parliamentary Finance and Select Committee’s report on the bill is available at http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/SC/Documents/Reports/d/4/2/49DBSCH_SCR4520_1-Climate-Change-Response-Moderated-Emissions-Trading.htm.

Leading medical bodies throughout the world are saying that politicians must heed health effects of climate change, doctors must speak out, and doctors demand their politicians be decisive, listen to the clear facts and act now (http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/339/sep15_1/b3672).

OraTaiao: New Zealand Climate and Health is part of this movement by doctors worldwide. The group comprises more than one hundred senior doctors and other health professionals concerned about climate change impacts on health and health services.
Members of OraTaiao include professors, senior clinical and research doctors in surgery, medicine, general practice, public health, paediatrics and other specialties, alongside other doctors and other health professionals. One doctor works for the United Nations, and two were major contributors to the health impact chapters by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The group considers that the halving New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions as a 2020 target is scientifically justified and necessary for limiting the health and social impacts of climate change in NZ, the Pacific and Australia. OraTaiao will continue to press for policies that adequately address climate change, that align with equity goals and that maximise the co-benefits for health in the medium and long term.

OraTaiao has actively written contributed to the peer-reviewed medical journals on climate change, including the lead editorial in the 30 October issue of the journal about the ETS (http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/122-1305/3859). The group had submitted in writing and orally to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee on bill. Members of OraTaiao also submitted a further six written submissions to the Select Committee as individuals, and four presented orally.

Other editorials and articles in the NZ Medical Journal are at http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/122-1304/3817/, http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/122-1304/3827/, http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/122-1305/3866/.

ENDS

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