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Doctors support re-think on Emissions Scheme

Doctors support re-think on the Emissions Trading Scheme

OraTaiao, New Zealand’s climate and health group representing more than 100 doctors and other health professionals, supports any re-thinking by political parties around the Emissions Trading Scheme today.

“The inadequate democratic process provided by the government has not allowed any group the opportunity to provide a considered response to the proposed amendments to the Emissions Trading Scheme” says Dr Rhys Jones, Ngati Kahungunu, senior lecturer at Auckland University and co-leader of OraTaiao.

“The proposed amendments will do nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, threatening a global agreement to make necessary emissions cuts, and endangering the future health of our children. The impact of climate change will be the biggest public health threat we have ever faced.”

According to OraTaiao, parliamentarians would do well to take this opportunity to ask deeper questions about the impacts of the scheme on its most vulnerable constituents, in particular whanau living in poverty.

“We all need to ask whether the resulting ETS would protect our most vulnerable whanau from the long term health, social and environmental effects of climate change. As it currently stands, the proposed changes do not contribute to international commitments to prevent the most devastating health effects of climate change, which in this country will hit Maori communities hardest,” says Dr Jones.

“The principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, and the value of Treaty settlements should be central to the Emissions Trading Scheme, but there are better ways to uphold these principles than economic deals at the margin that fail to address the fundamental flaws in the scheme.”

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“Treaty entitlements include both protection of assets such as forests and adequately funded government health and education services to reduce longstanding inequities.”

“Let’s be clear. This is not an effective emissions trading scheme. This ETS is like writing a blank taxpayer cheque each year from now on through till 2050. This will have devastating effects on the economy, particularly for our poorest households, for generations to come. Our children and grandchildren will face a bleak future”, ends Dr Jones.

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.

Dr George Laking (Te Whakatohea) is a medical oncologist and health economist based in Auckland.

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.

OraTaiao is politically no-partisan and wants to work with all decision-makers, political parties and other organisations to prevent runaway climate change and it effects on vulnerable populations.

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).

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

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.

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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