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Doctors say Maori will suffer from ETS

Doctors say Maori will suffer from emissions trading scheme

A Maori senior doctor, who leads health professionals for climate action, says that iwi have every right to expect that hard-won treaty settlements should be honoured and not devalued – but we need to find a better way.

Dr Rhys Jones, Ngati Kahungunu, senior lecturer in Maori Health Auckland University and co-leader of OraTaiao: NZ Climate and Health, says the proposed Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is the biggest resource grab this century. “It will rob all our tamariki (children) and then whakatipuranga (future generations) of their birthright. Yet it will do nothing to reduce dangerous emissions.”

Dr Jones represents senior doctors who say that the proposed ETS will extravagantly waste public funds and hurt families. OraTaiao: NZ Climate & Health, a large group of senior doctors and other health professionals acting to prevent runaway climate change; say the ETS will therefore harm health as well as the economy.

“We agree with the Maori Party’s Dr Pita Sharples (on RadioNZ’s Morning Report this morning), planting native trees on the DOC estate is good. But it should not be at the price tag of passing a deeply flawed ETS. This ETS doesn't reduce dangerous emissions and it comes at a huge cost to all of us.”

“Right now food and fuel costs hurt burden Maori, Pacific and low income families the worst, yet bizarrely the ETS will degenerate things even more. Why should big taxpayer contributions give powerful and vocal big emitters a licence to threaten the future for our tamariki, rangatahi and future generations?” asks Dr Jones.

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Dr Jones says that with runaway climate change, Maori communities will suffer because of poorer existing housing and community infrastructure, and economic reliance on threatened fishery and shellfish stocks. “The further loss of cultural taonga will also be hard for iwi and hapu to bear. These things will obliterate any positive effects from repealing the Foreshore and Seabed Act,” he says.

“The ETS is like a bad taste Christmas gift – but loaded onto our credit card for the years and decades ahead. A well designed ETS could be an incredible win-win: for health, the economy, the environment and positive Maori development. The proposed ETS fails on all these counts.

“Don't sell out the future of our tamariki; we need to find better ways to honour hard-won Treaty settlements.”

Background notes:

Dr Rhys Jones (Ngati Kahungunu) is a public health medicine specialist at the University of Auckland. He co-convenes OraTaiao: NZ Climate and Health.

OraTaiao: New Zealand Climate and Health comprises more than one hundred senior doctors and other health professionals concerned about climate change impacts on health and health services. Members include professors, senior clinical and research doctors in surgery, medicine, general practice, public health, paediatrics and other specialties, alongside other doctors and other health professionals. One doctor works for the United Nations, and two were major contributors to the health impact chapters by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The New Zealand Climate Change Response (Moderated Emissions Trading) Amendment Bill will undergo its Third Reading in Parliament Tuesday 24 November.

OraTaiao is committed to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and encourages societal responses to climate change that promote equitable health and social outcomes. Its constituted kaupapa includes being guided in practice the indigenous concepts of kaitiakitanga (guardianship), kotahitanga (unity), manaakitanga (caring), and whakatipuranga (future generations).

OraTaiao contends that:

• The proposed emissions trading scheme (ETS) is a license to increase dangerous emissions rather than an incentive to reduce them

• New Zealand’s ETS must be better designed, to lead to improvements in both emissions and health

• The economic impact of the proposed ETS will be $110 billion of extra debt by the year 2050. This will mean funding of health and social services will be even more vulnerable than they are now

• An estimated 84% of the costs will be borne by taxpayers. Don't use scarce taxpayer funds to subsidise emissions from big polluters

• ETS-driven price increases will likely affect low-income groups most, increasing fuel poverty and food insecurity

• The ETS fails to protect the most vulnerable communities from the effects of climate change. Government revenue from our ETS must be targeted to relieve the negative effects of price increases on low-income groups

• Although ETS amendments provide for a Treaty of Waitangi clause, not yet written, the current ETS looks set to increase fuel poverty and food insecurity—burdens that fall disproportionately on Maori families

• A well designed ETS could be an incredible win-win: for health, the economy, the environment and positive Maori development. The proposed ETS fails on all these counts.

OraTaiao has actively written contributed to the peer-reviewed medical journals on climate change, including the lead editorial in the 30 October issue of the journal about the ETS ( The group had submitted in writing and orally to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee on bill. Members of OraTaiao also submitted a further six written submissions to the Select Committee as individuals, and four presented orally.

The group considers that the halving New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions as a 2020 target is scientifically justified and necessary for limiting the health and social impacts of climate change in NZ, the Pacific and Australia. OraTaiao will continue to press for policies that adequately address climate change, that align with equity goals and that maximise the co-benefits for health in the medium and long term.


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