We have much to gain from real action to protect our climate – for our economy and for our health now and over coming decades. The sooner we act, the greater the gains. Wealthy countries, including New Zealand, share a big responsibility for the climate change that is already happening. Doing our fair share as global citizens is essential – with opportunities for health and fairness. Our government is consulting publicly on New Zealand's contribution to reducing our greenhouse pollution (INDC), in preparation for this year's global agreement meeting in Paris. But they need our support, as a strong health mandate, to make a real contribution!

Have your health voice counted - make a written submission by 3 June

We need health professional voices to call for healthy climate action, by making submissions. Whether it's a couple of sentences or pages, your voice matters. Many countries have already pledged action, covering half the world's emissions – including the European Union pledging at least 40% cuts on their 1990 emissions levels by 2030.
There are three ways you can make a submission **here** – an online submission tool, a form to fill out and return, or write your own submission. Written submissions close 5pm Wednesday 3 June.

A healthy post-2020 climate change target

If nothing else, tell our government that climate action protects and can improve our health. Ask that the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC):
(i) includes health and fairness in the assessment of costs and benefits
(ii) commits to a global and NZ zero 2050 carbon target with annual steps to get there
(iii) pledges at least 40% cuts by 2030 in our gross domestic greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990, towards at least 95% by 2050
(iv) places an immediate moratorium on fossil fuel exploration, and pledges to phase out existing extraction in the next decade
(v) includes credible cross-party plans in the INDC, with a legislated independent Climate Commission to ensure NZ meets its targets and stays within the global carbon budget.

Answering the discussion document questions

The government's INDC discussion document frames climate action as costly – ignoring the greater costs of climate inaction and the real gains to our health and economy by taking action now. We know that New Zealand can gain from being part of the global solution. Here are some ideas for your own submission, responding to the submission questions. But remember, your personal voice matters, so add your own thoughts and comments.

Questions 1a and 1b: Objectives for the contribution
We urge the government to re-word and prioritise the proposed objectives for the INDC as follows:

1. It must guide New Zealand's timely transition to a zero emission economy and society
The top priority is for carbon emissions to peak within this government's term followed by annual reductions. INDC targets must include all-sector actions that centralise health and fairness, future-proof our economy, build on our clean energy strengths, improve housing and transform transport, resulting in a resilient, fair and healthy zero carbon economy and society by 2050. Agricultural greenhouse pollutants must also reduce through agricultural diversification then technology.

2. It is a fair and ambitious contribution that meets our globally assessed responsibilities
Secondly, NZ's contribution must be fair, ambitious, credible and sufficient – most importantly as an international citizen helping stay within the safe global carbon dioxide emissions budget. NZ's economy relies on world climate cooperation. We are also influential. Our contributions must therefore be convincing and not discourage stronger commitments by other nations.

3. Costs and benefits need to be distributed fairly within New Zealand and between countries
Healthy people depend on a healthy climate – we can't afford not to take real climate action. Ambitious climate action is the best investment in our future. The costs of climate change are much greater than the costs of responsible action – and climate change will affect our most vulnerable households the most. The important health gains (‘mitigation co-benefits') from climate action must be included in the calculations. We need to share the costs and benefits of action fairly, both between countries and within New Zealand.

Question 2: What would be a fair contribution for New Zealand
Current and future human wellbeing depends upon not exceeding our global carbon budget. We need to call for a global zero carbon target before 2050 – and NZ needs to demonstrate the annual, credible steps needed from 2015 to reach this target well before 2050. Further, we need to keep up with other wealthy nations in pledging at least 40% cuts in our gross domestic greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990 emissions, by 2030, towards at least 95% by 2050.
Importantly, the world has five times the amount of fossil fuels in reserve as we can afford to burn. We need to immediately commit to zero new fossil fuel exploration and phase out existing extraction in the next decade.
Our INDC needs to also commit to the cross-party agreement and national policies needed to achieve these targets.

Questions 3 and 4: How will our contribution affect New Zealanders
What level of cost is appropriate?
The costs of climate inaction far exceed the costs of taking action and we need to account for this in climate calculations. The sooner we act, the more likely we will see overall gains not costs. Encouragingly, we can significantly improve short- and medium-term health and equity (‘mitigation co-benefits') – especially by shifting from cars to active and public transport; better housing energy efficiency; climate-friendly home heating; reducing red meat and dairy intake; phasing out coal and lignite mining. NZ must include these co-benefits when calculating costs and benefits of action. A fair transition means policy designed to especially support changes by vulnerable households.

Important & likely opportunities?
The document focuses heavily on agriculture, but half of our emissions are long-lived carbon dioxide from transport, housing and other energy use which have to rapidly reduce to zero. We already have the technology and policy ideas to reduce these emissions – we need the cross-party political will to put them in place. We will also need to reduce our economic reliance on ruminant livestock farming.

Question 5: Summary
Taking into account future uncertainties of technologies and costs in setting a target?
The precautionary principle compels us to act now. Risks of further delay are very high, while we have good certainty about potential short to medium term gains of well-designed emissions reductions policies. We need government to give clear, strong, consistent signals to spur both behaviour change and technological development.

Question 6: Other comments
Further information for our government to consider?
Health and wellbeing needs to be at the heart of the government's climate action. We urge:
  • a Parliamentary climate change and health summit;
  • health sector leadership on mitigation and adapting to locked-in climate impacts on health;
  • involvement of public health expertise;
  • Health (including equity) Impact Assessment (HIA) routinely used to inform key climate-relevant policies; and
  • climate commitments that protect and promote health in the climate-vulnerable Pacific regions.

Let's help our government make a stronger healthier climate commitment – please make your submission before 5pm Wednesday 3 June.

Download this submission guide as a Word document

Useful resources:
Health and equity impacts of climate change in Aotearoa-NZ, and health gains of climate action