Open Letter On Climate Emergency

Dear Prime Minister and Minister Shaw,

The New Zealand Medical Association welcomes yesterday’s (2 December 2020), announcement by the Government on Climate Emergency.  

In September 2019, NZMA declared climate change a serious and leading threat to health and health equity, both in New Zealand and worldwide, joining sister organisations the Australian Medical Association, American Medical Association and British Medical Association in recognising climate change as a health emergency.

In October 2019, the World Medical Association also recognised a climate emergency urging governments across the globe to both declare a climate emergency and to rapidly work to deliver carbon neutrality so as to minimise the life threatening impacts of climate change on health.

“Climate change is already having severe health consequences on vulnerable populations around the world, including in our Pacific region and on our most vulnerable populations including Māori. Recognisable health threats from climate change include the direct impacts such as illness and deaths from high temperatures and other extreme weather events,biologically-mediated events that include the changing patterns of infectious disease and socially-mediated impacts with loss of livelihood, forced migration, economic vulnerability and increased risks of conflict,” says Dr Kate Baddock, Chair of NZMA.

“Climate change is also one of the greatest global health opportunities of the 21st century.

“The financial costs of responding to climate change will be offset by the cost of doing nothing and doing nothing will increase health inequity – something we are determined to reverse.”

Dr Baddock also says that it is “important when designing measures to address climate change that it is useful to value the concepts of kaitiakitanga (guardianship), aroha(love/compassion), manaakitanga (caring), whakatipuranga (future generations),hauora (health and wellbeing), and tika (integrity/doing what’s right).”

In January 2019, the NZMA released seven actions to mitigate health and climate change, and these actions broadly align with the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine’s (NZCPHM) policy statement and “we (NZMA) want urgent, decisive and effective action to mitigate climate change and its consequences.”  The New Zealand Nurses Organisation and the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists also endorse NZMA’s position on health and climate change.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Kate Baddock

Chair of the NZMA

Additional Information

NZMA’s Declares Climate Change a Health Emergency – September 2019

NZMA Position Statement on Health and Climate Change - January 2019

NZMAs seven actions to mitigate health and climate change  - January 2019

For further information:

Diana Wolken

NZMA Communications Manager

027 553 5545