A group of leading New Zealanders, including scientists, health professionals, unions, and the current New Zealand Poet Laureate, have launched an open letter urging Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to end oil and gas exploration.
More than three dozen notable individuals and associations have so far put their name to the letter, which encourages Ardern and her Government to turn her “passion into action” on climate change.
Ardern made history in the lead-up to the election when she stated that climate change is the nuclear free moment of her generation.
Pacific poet-scholar and current New Zealand Poet Laureate, Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh, has signed the letter out of concern for climate change. In her 2013 poem, ‘NZ, the Lucky Country’, she writes:
“… We need inter-generationality / eco-sustainability / for our fossil fuels and energy / in this land of space, water and sea / We need a bit of Hillary / who had the same fear of heights as you and me / but knocked the bastard off anyway…”
Groups including the PSA, the New Zealand Medical Association, Unite Union and the Public Health Association, Greenpeace and Forest and Bird; scientists including Professor James Renwick and Dr Jim Salinger; Prof Margaret Mutu FRSNZ, Chairperson of Te Rūnanga-ā-Iwi o Ngāti Kahu, the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Wellington, Rt Rev Justin Duckworth; and businesspeople including Phillip Mills, are among those who are supporting the call.
One of New Zealand’s leading climate change scientists, Professor James Renwick, says New Zealand needs to take urgent action on the climate by ending oil and gas exploration.
“All nations need to reduce carbon emissions as soon as possible and New Zealand can show the world how its done”, he says.
Dr Alex Macmillan, Public Health Physician and Co-Convener of Ora Taiao (The New Zealand Climate and Health Council) says climate change is one of the most pressing medical issues facing the world today.
“We know that to protect health from dangerous climate change the world needs to leave known and new coal, oil and gas in the ground, and create a fair and healthy shift to renewable energy. New Zealand is not immune from the health impacts of climate change. New Zealand is not exempt from obligations to end fossil fuel exploration and extraction,” she says.
Greenpeace Executive Director, Russel Norman, says the world can’t afford to burn even half of existing reserves of fossil fuels, let alone seek out and burn new reserves if we are to avoid extremely dangerous climate change.
“The Pacific is on the frontlines of climate change and we must act swiftly to do our part in the global fight to slow down and mitigate the effects we’re already experiencing,” he says.
“Right now we have yet another cyclone forming that could hit our Pacific Island neighbours, before heading our way. Over the past year in New Zealand, we’ve experienced large-scale flooding, fires, long periods of drought, and cyclones – events that are made more likely because of climate change.”
Other well-known New Zealanders including musician Tiki Taane and actors Lucy Lawless and Robyn Malcolm have also signed the letter. It will remain open for signatures for a few more weeks, before formally being handed in to the Prime Minister.
A PDF of the letter is available here