Concens about harmful impact of climate change on children Monday, 17 October 2016

Source: Ora Taiao, 14 October 2016

This week is World Climate Week. In the same United Nations Committee report damning New Zealand's inaction on child poverty, the committee has also expressed its concern about the harmful impact of climate change on New Zealand children, especially Māori and Pacific children and children living in low-income families. 

OraTaiao, the New Zealand Climate and Health Council, welcomes the report from the UN experts. Dr Rhys Jones, Co-Convenor of OraTaiao, says the UN recommendations are sensible and important.

The UN experts urged the New Zealand government to use health impact assessments - including child health impact assessments - to inform climate-relevant policies and laws.

They also advised the government to make sure it looks at the needs of children and listens to children's views as it addresses climate change, and to especially consider children most affected by climate change.

Dr Jones says, "As health professionals, we know children are especially vulnerable to climate change. For example climate change brings about more childhood infections and respiratory illness. We also know that climate change will make existing vulnerabilities like child poverty much worse."

"Māori and Pacific children have a higher burden of climate-sensitive illnesses and poorer access to health care," says Dr Jones. "Climate policy in NZ needs to do a great deal more to protect children. The disproportionately high number of Māori and Pacific families living on low incomes means that the effects of climate change on food security, housing and infrastructure will be more difficult to prepare for and recover from. This will result in serious impacts on children's health," Dr Jones adds.

Dr Jones also says we know what is required to protect and create healthy environments for children. "Investing in housing insulation, better diets, clean energy, great public transport and safer walking and cycle-ways all have double benefits. They give immediate health benefits, especially for children and disadvantaged families, and also bring down greenhouse gas emissions."