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Maori health leader speaks about climate change at COP22

18 November 2016

Maori health leader speaks about climate change and the right to health at COP22

World leaders are meeting in Marrakesh to bring to life the promises made to limit climate change in the Paris Agreement. Earlier this week Rhys Jones, a Maori doctor and co-convenor of OraTaiao: The NZ Climate & Health Council, called for climate action that protects human rights, especially indigenous rights, children’s rights and the right to health.

Dr Jones is in Morocco at COP22 participating in an event hosted by the World Health Organization and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“This year is set again to be the hottest year on record and global inaction on climate change is already harming people’s right to health, especially for children and indigenous peoples,” Dr Jones said.

“However it’s not just climate change itself, but also our responses to climate change that can lead to a breach of these rights. Governments, including New Zealand’s, are accountable under international agreements not just to act on climate change, but to do so in ways that protect, improve and uphold human rights.

“In New Zealand and Oceania, Maori and indigenous Pacific communities are being hit first and hardest by the impacts of climate change, undermining their right to health. For example, extreme weather events are destroying communities and blocking access to health services. At the same time, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has criticised New Zealand for failing to protect children’s rights, including through inaction on climate change.”

Dr Jones said upholding human rights is one of the fundamental duties of government and a safe, healthy climate underpins many of those rights.

“So to protect human rights, climate policies need to be urgent, transformative and to centralise human wellbeing and fairness.”

ENDS

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