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Doctors say Kyoto cop-out further undermines climate action

Friday 9 November 2012

NZ doctors say Kyoto cop-out further undermines climate action and threatens health

OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council is appalled that our government has now refused to join a second Kyoto commitment period. This ends a bleak week for climate action with changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme removing any pretence of reducing emissions.

‘To announce this just weeks out from international climate security talks in Doha, sends a disturbing message to the rest of the world’ says Dr Rhys Jones of the Council. ‘The government has to realise that, globally, New Zealand is viewed as a lucky country with fertile farmland, a favourable climate, plentiful renewable energy resources and scope for forest expansion. We are also among the highest emitters per person in the world. Our refusal to play our part is simply inexcusable and flies in the face of our clean, green brand’.

‘Our government seems to be seriously misjudging both the interests of New Zealanders and our character’ says Dr Jones. ‘Time after time, we’ve played our part in international emergencies, from world wars to rushing emergency aid for natural disasters. Yet this government is sitting on the sidelines talking the talk about climate change – then waiting for everyone else to do the work.’

This latest announcement also begs the question, whose interests is this Government really listening to? Refusing to commit to action on climate change threatens our economic prosperity: our export sectors, for example, are highly dependent on a stable climate and ocean conditions. Most New Zealanders alive today will experience the damage that today’s climate pollution causes, including adverse impacts on health and wellbeing. Health impacts relevant to New Zealanders include increased infectious disease; injuries, death and disease due to floods, storms and heat-waves; impacts on allergic disease with changes in pollen seasons; and mental health effects.

Dr Jones concludes: ‘The bottom line is that the health and wellbeing of current and future New Zealanders is at risk – we need global co-operation on climate change to protect New Zealanders. But if we refuse to do anything, we can’t expect anyone else to. It’s time for New Zealand to join Australia and sign up to a second Kyoto commitment period now.’

OraTaiao: The NZ Climate & Health Council

Links to reports and commentary
OraTaiao media release: Doctors respond ‘NZ can’t wait for everyone else to act’, 5 November 2012
Governments set world on more than 3°C warming, still playing with numbers – Climate Action Tracker. 4 September 2012.
HorizonPoll released 10 August 2012. People want more action on climate change. https://www.horizonpoll.co.nz/page/244/people-want-
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Report of the in-depth review of the fifth national communication of New Zealand, February 2011.

About doctors and New Zealand’s role in international climate health action
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.

At the last UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) meeting in Durban in December 2011 nations failed to finalise the deal to reduce global emissions. However they did agree to an extension of the existing deal – the Kyoto Protocol – for either 5 or 8 years.

The second phase of the Kyoto Protocol is proposed to run from the start of 2013 either for five or eight years; the first phase expires at the end of 2012.

Australia joins the European Union plus nine other countries (Belarus, Croatia, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Lichtenstein, Monaco, Norway, Switzerland, Ukraine) have made a commitment to signing-on to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. In Durban, Japan, Canada and Russia said they will not sign-on.

The UNFCCC is meeting in Doha from 26 Nov – 7 Dec 2012. 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.

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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