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Zero Carbon Bill is critical legislation for health, but targets are too little, too late
Health professionals have offered a mixed response to today’s release of the Zero Carbon Bill.
They applaud its purpose to prevent global warming of more than 1.5 degrees, but say aspects of the Bill lack the necessary urgency and accountability.
“The Bill’s targets as they stand today would be too little, too late,” says Dr Rhys Jones, Coconvenor of OraTaiao: NZ Climate and Health Council.
“The Zero Carbon Bill is too weak on agricultural emissions which comprise almost half of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions. We need to see a move away from beef and dairy for both the sake of human and planetary health,” says Dr Jones.
The Zero Carbon Bill sets a target of 10 per cent reduction in biological methane emissions by 2030, and aims for a provisional reduction ranging from 24 per cent to 47 per cent by 2050.
“Our food production systems are threatening local ecosystems and contributing to climate change, while unhealthy diets are a significant contributor to major health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and cancers. But on the other hand, a rapid transition to a healthy plant-based food system could go a long way to addressing major health issues including obesity, heart disease and protecting our drinking water.”
Dr Jones was speaking from the 2nd Sustainable Healthcare Forum in Wellington today where leaders from a range of sectors gathered to share ideas about reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the health sector. Forum participants have called on the Government to set greenhouse gas emission targets for District Health Boards.
“Health professionals are extremely concerned about the impacts of climate change on the health of people and communities. At the same time, we are excited about the health opportunities that well-designed climate action can bring,” says Dr Jones.
“A strong Zero Carbon Bill that emphasises fairness and upholds Te Tiriti o Waitangi is critical for a healthy future for New Zealanders.”
Media Spokesperson: Dr Rhys Jones, 021 411 743
Dr Rhys Jones (Ngāti Kahungunu) (email@example.com) is a Public Health Physician and Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland, and Co-convenor of OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council.
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:
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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