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Government Spend Now Must Do ‘triple Duty’ For People, Planet And Prosperity

Health professionals are calling for the government’s economic stimulus to do triple duty for people, planet and prosperity.

“We can’t return to business as usual. We need a new framework to guide public investment. As the Government invests to get the economy going after lockdown we must ensure this public money is well spent and has a long term benefit for people, planet and prosperity,” said Dr. Alex Macmillan, OraTaiao co-convenor.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts of our lockdown, the NZ Government is looking at options to invest in ‘shovel ready’ infrastructure schemes and is planning a large economic stimulus package, but according to Dr Macmillan this necessary rapid action must support the most vulnerable, including those who have lost their livelihoods, as well as climate action.

“Government spending must do triple duty by equitably supporting economic wellbeing, meeting our obligations to address climate change, and improving people’s health. The pandemic, and our responses to it, are exposing deep structural injustices. The people most affected by the virus and the lockdown are the same groups who are most affected by climate change. We’re talking about Māori, families with the lowest incomes and the most precarious work, Pacific peoples, those with existing chronic health issues, and people with disabilities. Pandemic justice and climate justice are two sides of the same coin,” said Dr Macmillan.

“To successfully address ongoing injustice for iwi, hapū and whānau Māori, we need to challenge systems of colonisation and racism, and centralise the Articles of te Tiriti o Waitangi in our investment frameworks.”

“To achieve benefits for wellbeing and address the underlying drivers of injustice, we must invest in healthy, zero emissions transport, housing, energy and food systems. And spending on social infrastructure will be just as important, for example, climate-resilient public health and social services.

“The actions we take today will have long-lasting consequences for everyone, including future generations, so we must stay the course for a healthy climate,” said Dr Macmillan.

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OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate & Health Council is a health professional organisation urgently focusing on the health threats of climate change and the health opportunities of climate action. See: www.orataiao.org.nz

Notes to editors:

“CIP is seeking ‘shovel ready’ infrastructure projects”
https://www.crowninfrastructure.govt.nz/iirg/

Government’s Annual Budget 2020
https://treasury.govt.nz/publications/budgets

About Climate Change and Health
Information is available in the following paper from the 2014 NZ Medical Journal:‘Health and equity impacts of climate change in Aotearoa-New Zealand, and health gains from climate action’. http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/read-the-journal/all-issues/2010-2019/2014/vol-127-no-1406/6366

Health threats from climate changes include: worsening illness and injury from heat and other extreme weather, changing patterns of infection including food poisoning, loss of seafood and farming livelihoods, food price rises and mass migration from the Pacific. Those on low incomes, Māori, Pacific people, children and older people will be hit first and hardest, but nobody will be immune to the widespread health and social threats of unchecked climate change. Direct and indirect climate change impacts are already being seen here from warming oceans and sea level rise.

Health opportunities from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, easing pressure on health budgets include:rapidly phasing out coal; switching from car trips to more walking, cycling and public transport; healthier diets lower in red meat and dairy; and energy efficient, warm homes will all cut emissions while also reducing the diseases that kill New Zealanders most and put our children in hospital – cancer, heart disease, lung diseases and car crash injuries.

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