14 October 2016
UN experts urge New Zealand to protect children’s rights from climate change
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 Maori 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.
“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,” says Dr Jones.
“Maori and Pacific children have a higher burden of climate-sensitive illnesses and poorer access to health care.
Climate policy in New Zealand needs to do a great deal more to protect children. The disproportionately high number of
Maori 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
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.”
OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council comprises health professionals concerned about climate change as a serious public health threat. The Council also
promotes the positive health gains that can be achieved through action to address climate change. OraTaiao has written
reports to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child about the impact of climate change, including the impact on the
rights of New Zealand children. See: www.orataiao.org.nz
Children’s rights and climate change in Aotearoa New Zealand: Report from OraTaiao for UN Committee on the Rights of the Child http://www.acya.org.nz/uncroc-documents.html