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Zero Carbon Bill crucial for NZ’s health

Zero Carbon Bill crucial for NZ’s health – but must be faster, fairer and Treaty-based

Health professionals welcome today’s public consultation launch for the Zero Carbon Bill, saying it is crucial for New Zealanders’ health. However, they warn that the Bill will need to be seriously strengthened for faster, fairer protection of a healthy climate.

The Bill (modelled on the UK’s successful Climate Change Act 2008), proposes a consistent policy framework for NZ to reach net zero climate pollution in the coming decades. This is vital for protecting human health and wellbeing, in the context of global action.

“As health professionals, we know that climate change is a medical emergency,” says Dr Rhys Jones, Co-convenor of OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council. “Quickly reducing climate pollution to net zero is an essential prescription for the health of New Zealanders.”

“We know that legislation like a Zero Carbon Act works. The UK Climate Change Act has led to real climate action, including by the health sector. The UK’s National Health Service has reduced emissions by 11% since 2007 – despite an 18% increase in healthcare activity, and the UK’s overall emissions are falling, unlike ours,” says Dr Jones.

However, OraTaiao has two major concerns with the Bill as currently proposed.

First, the target of zero emissions by 2050, while more ambitious than previous targets, is still too little, too late. “Because of our previous inaction, alongside inaction by other countries, NZ’s emissions now need to be net zero in the 2030s to meet our promises under the Paris Agreement. For the sake of our Pacific neighbours and others living in low-lying areas, we must reach net zero emissions faster.”

Second, there are major issues of fairness that need to be addressed in the Zero Carbon Bill’s development.

“Equity and Māori wellbeing have to be at the heart of climate policy to support those being hit hardest by climate change,” says Dr Jones. “The process has so far failed to fulfil the government’s partnership requirements under the Treaty of Waitangi.”

“We know that NZ can rapidly cut emissions in ways that are fair, honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and improve our health in both the short and long term.”

“Cutting our emissions well before 2040 is critical for New Zealanders’ health. We need a fast, fair, Treaty-based transition now,” says Dr Jones.

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