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Doctors respond ‘NZ can’t wait for everyone else to act’

Monday 5 November 2012

Doctors respond ‘NZ can’t wait for everyone else to act’

Responding to Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser, the NZ Climate and Health Council calls on the government to listen to New Zealanders and take real action on climate change.

For a country like New Zealand, standing on the sidelines waiting for everyone else to act first is not an option. Council spokesperson Dr Rhys Jones says: ‘New Zealand is climate-exposed with our agriculture and fishing industries, and we need the cooperation of the rest of the world. But we cannot underestimate the chilling message we send if New Zealanders, as some of the highest climate polluters in the world and with plentiful natural resources, refuse to develop a low emissions economy.’

The Emissions Trading Scheme is basically the only tool New Zealand is using to reduce our emissions. The Council states this week’s intended changes will lock us into extremely high levels of government debt for a trading scheme that will do nothing to reduce emissions. ‘Even the token five percent that big polluters are expected to pay can be sourced from overseas credits of dubious origin with no gain for New Zealand. If nothing else, surely a limit could be put on overseas carbon credits?’, suggests Dr Jones.

The Council says that climate change is widely recognised by world health authorities and leading medical journals as the biggest global health threat of the 21st century, and this is well-accepted by New Zealand medical professional bodies. Major threats will occur through water and food insecurity, damage to shelter and human settlements, population displacement and migration, extreme climatic events, changing patterns of disease, risks to security (including. war), and loss of economic potential. The threat to New Zealanders’ health and wellbeing is very real.

‘If you’re at a car crash scene, you don’t wait for everyone else to sort it as the Minister proposes. As New Zealanders, we get stuck in and work with others to do what needs to be done, fast. Climate change demands world action, fast, and that includes New Zealand’, ends Dr Jones.

Links to reports and commentary
Comments by Hon. Tim Grosser, Radio NZ news:
• Changes to ETS threaten public health - NZ doctors. Radio NZ news 7pm, 4 November 2012.
Climate Tracker analysis (Ecofys/Climate Analytics/Potsdam Institute (PIK)):
• Governments set world on more than 3°C warming, still playing with numbers – Climate Action Tracker. 4 September 2012.
Climate change action in NZ and the ETS:
• Don't downsize NZ emissions scheme after superstorm Sandy, 3 November 2012
• Doctors demand ‘Come Clean on Emissions Trading Scheme’ 19 September 2012
• OraTaiao submission on ‘Updating the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme: A consultation document’, May 2012

• The Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill
• Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Submission.
• The Sustainability Council of New Zealand’s ‘The Carbon Budget Deficit’ report
• United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Report of the in-depth review of the fifth national communication of New Zealand, February 2011.
• HorizonPoll released 10 August 2012. People want more action on climate change. https://www.horizonpoll.co.nz/page/244/people-want-

More about doctors and the ETS
OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council are senior doctors and other health professionals concerned with climate change as a serious public health threat. The Council is politically non-partisan. Climate change remains a clear and present danger of unprecedented scale, and is accepted by health authorities worldwide as the leading global health threat this century.

Recent credible analysis by Ecofys/Climate Analytics/Potsdam Institute(PIK) (Climate Tracker, September 2010) indicates that if Governments worldwide take no further action beyond current pledges, warming will increase by as much as 2.6 to 4.1 degrees Celsius by 2100 above pre-industrial levels.
http://www.climateanalytics.org/news/climate-action-tracker-update-governments-still-set-3%C2%B0c-warming-track-some-progress-many, http://www.ecofys.com/en/press/governments-set-world-on-more-than-3c-warming-still-playing-with-numbers-/
OraTaiao contends that World health, and the large-scale devastation wreaked on human health and survival, is and will be indifferent to New Zealand’s back-covering and looking out for Number One.

Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Select Committee is presently reconsidering New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS); the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill is likely to reach the committee stages this Tuesday 6 November, after having passed the second reading.

The independent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has labelled the ETS a ‘farce’, and the UNFCCC’s climate review team noted that New Zealand has no plans for much of our promised emissions cuts. According to the Parliamentary Commissioner, costs to taxpayers will total $1.3 billion over the next four years. This figure could become $44 billion in the 2020s, based on the Sustainability Council’s calculations at a plausible $100-a-tonne carbon price. Foresters are warning that the planned changes will reverse tree planting efforts.

A recent HorizonPoll showed that 67.5 per cent of respondents wanted business to do more to address global warming, 64.4 per cent wanting Parliament to do more, 60.6 per cent wanting the Prime Minister to do more, 62.9 per cent saying government officials should do more, and 63.7 per cent saying that citizens should be making more effort. The poll, for Carbon News, was of 2829 New Zealanders aged 18-plus, taken between July 5 and July 16.

The Council holds that:
• The ETS Bill will leave in place indefinitely the subsidies for heavy emitting industries, makes no provision for agriculture to enter the scheme, and removes the requirement for regular independent review.
• The ETS will continue to be a heavily taxpayer subsidised scheme with looming fiscal liabilities. It risks siphoning funds away from public services like health and education and New Zealand families, particularly Māori and low income New Zealanders, will suffer as a result.
• The ETS doubly affects the most vulnerable, because not only will funds be diverted from the public purse, but the scheme also fails to protect communities from the direct and indirect health effects of climate change. Māori communities in particular will suffer because of poorer existing housing and community infrastructure, and economic reliance on threatened fishery and shellfish stocks. Weakening the ETS will also see New Zealand fail to realise the considerable health co-benefits that are associated with moving to a low carbon economy.
OraTaiao contends that if NZ will not choose a prosperous low emissions economy, we cannot expect other counties to.

About climate and health
Climate change is widely recognised by world health authorities and leading medical journals to be the biggest global health threat of the 21st century and this is well-accepted by New Zealand medical professional bodies. Major threats—both direct and indirect—to global health from climate change will occur through water and food insecurity, threats to shelter and human settlements, population displacement and migration, extreme climatic events, changing patterns of disease, risks to security (e.g. war), and loss of economic potential.

Conversely, addressing climate change is an opportunity to improve population health and reduce inequities. In New Zealand, well designed policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can bring about substantial health co-benefits including reductions in heart disease, cancer, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, respiratory disease, and motor vehicle injuries, and improvements in mental health. These substantial health gains are possible through strategies such as transport infrastructure redesign to encourage active travel, healthy eating (including reduced red meat and animal fat consumption), and improving home insulation.

About OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate & Health Council
OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council is an incorporated society comprising over 150 senior doctors and other health professionals concerned about climate change impacts on health and health services. The Council is politically non-partisan.

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.

OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Climate is part of this international movement. It has published a number of articles about climate change and health in peer-reviewed medical journals, which can be found on its website www.orataiao.org.nz.

The Council’s messages include:
• Climate change is a real and urgent threat to the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders.
• New Zealand must be an active partner in global cooperation to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions to 350ppm CO2equivalents by:
o rapidly halving our own emissions by 2020;
o paying our fair share of international investment in a global future.
• New Zealand can, and must, respond to climate change in ways that improve population health, accord with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, create a more equitable, just and resilient society, and promote a healthier economy within ecological resource limits.

1. Costello A, Abbas M, Allen A, et al. Managing the health effects of climate change: Lancet and University College London Institute for Global Health Commission. Lancet 2009,373:1693–1733. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)60935-1/fulltext
2. Joint statement: It's time to act on climate change. Faculty of Public Health, Royal College of Physicians and 17 other organisations London: Faculty of Public Health, 2008. http://www.fph.org.uk/uploads/sustainble_development_joint_statement.pdf
3. [Joint letter 2009 from The Royal College of Physicians and 17 other professional bodies, published simultaneously in The Lancet and the BMJ, from: the Royal College of Physicians of London, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, American College of Physicians, Royal Australasian College of Physicians, College of Physicians of South Africa, Colleges of Medicine of South Africa, Hong Kong Academy of Medicine, Hong Kong College of Physicians, Royal College of Physicians of Thailand, Academy of Medicine of Malaysia, College of Physicians of Malaysia, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan, Bangladesh College of Physicians and Surgeons, Ceylon College of Physicians, West African College of Physicians]; Lim V, Stubbs JW, Nahar N, Amarasena N, Chaudry ZU, Weng SC, Mayosi B, van der Spuy Z, Liang R, Lai KN, Metz G, Fitzgerald GW, Williams B, Douglas N, Donohoe J, Darnchaivijir S, Coker P, Gilmore I. Politicians must heed health effects of climate change. Lancet. 2009;374:973; BMJ. 2009;339:b3672. doi: 10.1136/bmj.b3672. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2809%2961641-X/fulltext, http://www.bmj.com/content/339/bmj.b3672
4. Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland. Cost-effective surgery: a consensus statement (consensus statement on cost-effective and sustainable surgery). London: Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (ASGBI), 2011. http://www.asgbi.org.uk/download.cfm?docid=837F177C-46ED-4469-B59BD6CD3E03F410
5. Friel S, Marmot M, McMichael AJ, Kjellstrom T, Vågerö D. Global health equity and climate stabilisation: a common agenda. Lancet. 2008;372:1677-83. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S014067360861692X
6. Jay M, Marmot MG. Health and climate change. Lancet. 2009;374:961-2. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673609616032)
7. Chan M. Climate change and health: preparing for unprecedented challenges. The 2007 David E. Barmes Global Health Lecture, Bethesda, Maryland, USA, 10 December 2007. (World Health Organization, Director-General speeches 2006-12.) http://www.who.int/dg/speeches/2007/20071211_maryland/en/
8. World Medical Association. WMA Declaration of Delhi on Health and Climate Change. Adopted by the 60th WMA General Assembly, New Delhi, India, October 2009. http://www.wma.net/en/30publications/10policies/c5/index.html
9. New Zealand Medical Association. NZMA Position Statement on Health and Climate Change. Wellington: NZMA, 2010. http://www.nzma.org.nz/policies/advocacy/position-statements/climatechange
10. New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine. Climate change: New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine policy statement. Wellington: New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine (NZCPHM), 2012. http://www.populationhealth.org.nz/media/77463/2012%2006%20climate%20change%20%20(interim)%20policy%20statement%20-%20final.pdf
11. Oxfam International. Hang Together or Separately? How global co-operation is key to a fair and adequate climate deal at Copenhagen. Briefing Paper 128, 2009. http://www.oxfam.org/en/policy/fair-climate-deal-copenhagen
12. Metcalfe S, Woodward A, Macmillan A, Baker M, Howden-Chapman P, et al; New Zealand Climate and Health. Why New Zealand must rapidly halve its greenhouse gas emissions [Special Article]. N Z Med J. 2009 Oct 9;122(1304):72-95. http://journal.nzma.org.nz/journal/122-1304/3827/
13. Montgomery H. Climate change: the health consequences of inactivity [editorial]. NZ Med J. 2009 Oct 9;122(1304):6-8. http://journal.nzma.org.nz/journal/122-1304/3817/

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