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The case is clear for climate action that supports health

Follow the leaders: the case is clear for climate action that supports health

The need for rapid action on climate change in New Zealand in order to protect health is clear, according to a group of climate and health experts. Countries elsewhere in the world are already taking significant action, while New Zealand is lagging behind.

A Special Article in the New Zealand Medical Journal today outlines the increasing health threat of climate change for New Zealanders, and the health gains that could be made through action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Physical and mental health risks for New Zealanders include illness and injury associated with heat and extreme weather events, changing patterns of infectious diseases, and health consequences from wider impacts on jobs, food affordability and healthy housing.

But well-planned action to reduce greenhouse emissions could improve New Zealanders’ health. “More walking and cycling, moving to healthier plant based diets, and energy efficient warm homes will cut emissions while also improving health,” says Dr Rhys Jones of OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council.

Many other countries are now taking significant action. China and the United States recently made a landmark agreement to curb GHG emissions and reduce fossil fuel energy. Several nations made large pledges to the ‘Green Climate Fund’ at the recent G20 Summit in Australia.

“New Zealand used to be a trend setter in the areas of health and environmental policy, but we are now well behind the leaders in addressing climate change – arguably the defining health issue of our time,” says Dr Jones. “By dragging our heels we are missing out on huge opportunities to promote health and improve social and economic outcomes.”

The upcoming United Nations climate negotiations in Lima in December offer New Zealand a chance to commit to significant GHG emissions reductions.

“This would show that New Zealand is prepared to make a fair contribution to global climate action, and could stimulate climate action that would improve New Zealanders’ health and wellbeing,” says Dr Jones.


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