Health professionals are intensifying calls for urgent emissions reduction in response to a report released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The special report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, is the most comprehensive scientific assessment ever made of climate change. The report says 1.5°C is possible, but rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society are now needed. “The report makes it very clear that we must act urgently to keep global warming under 1.5°C for the sake of our health,” says Dr Alex Macmillan, Co-convenor of OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council.
“The report says that at 1.5°C, there are still serious health consequences. But the lower we can keep global warming, the better for our health. Conversely, the longer we delay acting, the harder it will be to protect health.” To stabilise global warming to 1.5 degrees, over the next decade global carbon must reduce to around half of 2010 levels – and, significantly for NZ’s food production resilience, global methane must be cut to less than two-thirds of 2010 levels by 2050.
This report comes at a critical stage of development of New Zealand’s proposed Zero Carbon Act, where there was overwhelming public support for net zero emissions for all climate-damaging gases. “It highlights the need for the Act to be significantly strengthened to ensure it is consistent with the science, with an earlier than 2050 zero emissions target and agriculture playing a crucial role in cutting its emissions” says Dr Macmillan.
“Decades of inaction mean we must now act with unprecedented urgency if we are to avoid major adverse impacts on health and wellbeing. We need to stop tinkering at the edges and start playing our part in averting the global climate crisis.”
“In doing this we must ensure a just transition for vulnerable communities within Aotearoa, including farming communities. Treaty partnerships are fundamental at every step of our net zero emissions journey. This is about all of us working together for economic resilience, fairness, justice, and better health for everyone.”
“The good news is that tackling climate change presents huge opportunities to improve health and create a fairer society. Energy efficient homes can be warmer, drier and more affordable; low carbon transport can make it easy to be more active and clear the air; and shifting towards a plant-based food system can reduce cancer and address our freshwater crisis. The government’s Zero Carbon Act will be a crucial piece of legislation for health in New Zealand,” says Dr Macmillan. “For our health’s sake, we must also ensure co-ordinated action across all sectors to help limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.”