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BERL’s healthy Southland vision welcomed by doctors

Wednesday 29 August 2012

PRESS RELEASE

BERL’s healthy Southland vision welcomed by doctors

Doctors have welcomed a report released yesterday on how Southland can grow good jobs without destroying the climate.

NZ Climate & Health Council spokesperson Dr Scott Metcalfe says “The ‘View to the South’ report, by leading economics consultancy firm BERL, is a healthy vision for Southland’s future. This is welcome news because our future health and survival depends on greenhouse gas emissions reductions to protect our climate.”

BERL’s report outlines diverse growth areas of forestry, engineering, education and horticulture/crops creating more than three thousand new jobs. These draw on Southland’s tried-and-true strengths and give healthy reasons for young Southlanders to stay. Forestry expansion is the biggest suggested job generator, soaking up carbon emissions and potentially building renewable energy independence.

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, and say that New Zealand needs to rapidly reduce its lethal greenhouse gas emissions. The Council, alongside world health authorities, states that climate change’s impact on health and health services is the leading risk to global health this century. The burning of fossil fuels, including the risk of mining Southland’s vast reserves of dirty lignite, is the main cause of this health crisis.

“Meeting our international responsibilities to addressing climate change means rapidly moving to a low carbon economy. Doing so can have sizeable health and economic gains by reducing major diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, as well as create a fairer society”, says Dr Metcalfe. “Keeping new coal and lignite in the ground is vital to this transition”.

In contrast to BERL’s report, ailing state-owned company Solid Energy threatens to mine and process Southland’s lignite. Southland has about 3.5 billion tonnes of this low energy, low value form of coal. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has warned that mining Southland’s lignite means greenhouse gases equal to about 70 years of New Zealand’s current emissions. “This completely undermines everyone else’s efforts to reduce emissions”, says Dr Metcalfe.

“Our farming and fisheries exports also rely on slowing the changing climate and acidifying ocean. This means leaving lignite deposits in the ground.”

Dr Metcalfe concludes: “BERL’s report confirms Southland’s natural advantages as a valuable food basket and generator of renewable energy. We support Southlanders in choosing a future that is rich in jobs, healthy and hopeful for everyone.”

ENDS

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