What has climate change got to do with Anthrax, human rights or New Zealand?

03/08/2016
Yamal herders crater Philippines Haiyan Urenui erosion combined

Photo credits below

Who would have thought climate change could have brought on an anthrax outbreak? Yet that’s exactly what’s happened. This week, a young boy in the Yamal Peninsula of Russia died and many herders were sent for hospital checks, the culprit being that an anthrax outbreak broke loose from the thawing of an infected reindeer (or possibly human) corpse.  A recent heatwave has melted the permafrost in which the reindeer had been buried for 70 years. The melt down set free the live spores of the deadly anthrax which has recently infected thousands of reindeer.

The remote Yamal Peninsula is not just home to traditional nomadic reindeer herders and former roaming grounds for mammoths. It hosts dozens of new craters, the result of the explosive emissions of large quantities of methane gas (previously locked away in permafrost), as the climate warms up. Ironically, the peninsula is also “a strategic oil- and gas bearing region of Russia” with two dozen oil /gas fields on- and off-shore, and plans for over 2,500 km of new gas pipelines.

Now moving to the Tropics, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines has just filed a legal complaint to 47 ‘carbon majors’ including Shell, BP, Exxon-Mobil and Chevron. The Commission argues that these companies “should be held accountable for the effects of their greenhouse gas emissions in the Philippines and demands that they explain how human rights violations resulting from climate change will be ‘eliminated, remedied and prevented’”.  The Commission also calls for an official investigation which has become the latest of a growing number of climate liability cases (e.g. Dutch and New Zealand) being brought against governments and corporations.

Further south here in New Zealand, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment reiterated recently that “there is no question that climate change is by far the most serious environmental issue we face. Moreover, it will have big impacts on virtually every other aspect of our environment.The marine environment is already being affected by climate change and most troubling … is ocean acidification … Climate change is projected to bring more intense and frequent heavy downpours which will exacerbate the problem [of erosion]”.

The government’s latest Climate Change Projections for NZ rang many alarm bells. Yet after reviewing the projections, the Taranaki Regional Council touted the warming temperature as economic opportunities and asserted its inability to address the cause of climate change under the Resource Management Act (RMA), rather than committing to action. Rarely mentioned is that the RMA allows council to consider the reduction of greenhouse gases enabled by renewable energy. The latter, along with investment and support for public transport, agriculture diversification, waste minimization and sustainable communities, should be what councils, central government and businesses are doing.

Photo captions and credits (clockwise from top left):

 


Media Release: Landfarming – Toxic waste disposal or recycling of rocks, mud and minerals?

20/07/2016
BTW Oeo landfarm incidence 2014 TRC 1280327

Photos from TRC monitoring report on BTW Oeo landfarm, June 2014

Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand (PEPANZ) Chief Executive Cameron Madgwick said, “landfarming is nothing more than taking the ground-up rocks, mud and minerals left over from drilling activities and recycling them by placing them underneath the topsoil.

Unfortunately, the facts tell a different story. As Climate Justice Taranaki Inc. (CJT) pointed out at the public hearings on the Proposed South Taranaki District Plan, the euphemistically termed ‘landfarming’ is actually the spreading of contaminated oil/gas wastes on farmland, and mostly on the coast in South Taranaki. Read the rest of this entry »


Media release: Landfarm or Contaminated Coastal Wasteland

29/06/2016
South Taranaki landfarm arial photos

Three coastal landfarms in South Taranaki consented for after 2009.

In the proposed South Taranaki District Plan, landfarming, the practice of spreading oil/gas wastes on farmlands, is a Permitted activity in the Rural Zone.

Climate Justice Taranaki, and other submitters, are strongly opposed to this, stating that landfarming should not be Permitted in the Rural Zone or anywhere else, especially on food producing land and within the Coastal Protection Area or catchments of Significant Waterbodies and Wetlands. Read the rest of this entry »


Media Release: Climate Justice Taranaki seek oil/gas prohibition in sensitive areas to protect human health and safety

21/06/2016

This morning, Climate Justice Taranaki spoke at the Proposed South Taranaki District Plan hearings. Below were our key points:

Hundreds of scientific studies concerning oil and gas development have been conducted internationally in recent years. A vast majority (84 percent) of such research has revealed signs of health impacts on nearby communities. Notably, a detailed study in Colorado concluded that residents living within 800m from gas wells were subject to almost twice the cancer risk than those living beyond 800m. Read the rest of this entry »


Press release: District Council must protect our drinking water

07/06/2016

At today’s public hearings on the Proposed South Taranaki District Plan, Climate Justice Taranaki argued that avoiding adverse effects on human drinking water sources must be added to the district plan.

Under the proposed plan, the district council is not required to assess explicitly the potential adverse effects on drinking water sources, when considering resource consents. This is just not good enough. All water supplies, whether they’re for rural or urban communities, should be protected,” said Catherine Cheung of Climate Justice Taranaki.

This issue was first raised by Taranaki District Health Board (TDHB) in their submission on the proposed plan. The DHB also recommended that Schedule 5 on Significant Waterbodies be amended, to specifically ensure the provision and protection of human drinking water sources. Under the Health Act and the National Environmental Standards on Sources of Human Drinking Water, council, being the district’s main drinking-water supplier, has the responsibility to protect our drinking water sources.

Our group fully supports the DHB’s recommendations. We were shocked when we read that both recommendations were rejected in Council Officers’ report,” continued Cheung.

Climate Justice Taranaki will be speaking again at subsequent hearing sessions concerning hazardous substances, energy and other issues, in late June.

— END —

Read our hearings statement here.

Media coverage: Opunake and Coastal News, 17 June 2016 page 7

See maps of South Taranaki’s water supplies below, from South Taranaki Water Supply Monitoring Programme Annual Report 2014-2015.

South Taranaki Water Supply north TRC 1604836

South Taranaki Water Supply south TRC 1604836


CJT Spoke on Resource Legislation Amendment

26/05/2016

Flare Mangahewa E climate change collage

This morning, members from Climate Justice Taranaki spoke to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee on the government’s proposed Resource Legislation Amendment Bill. The four key points were:

  1. The effects on CLIMATE CHANGE must be at the heart of every resource management decision, if the goal is to truly manage natural resources sustainably and protect our natural environment. Currently, the RMA and EEZ Act prohibit councils and the EPA  from considering the effects of activities on climate change. CJT urge that these be amended, as the government has a legal obligation and duty of care to protect its citizens from climate change.
  2. The proposed Bill takes away councils’ function in preventing and mitigating any adverse effects of the storage, use, disposal or transportation of HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES. This is an extremely dangerous proposition as it eliminates what could protect local communities from  well blow-out, gas clouds and other harmful accidents associated with the fossil fuel and other heavy industries.
  3. Fracking is known to contaminate water, soil, cause serious health effects, induce earthquakes and exacerbates climate change. CJT urge for a nationwide ban on FRACKING and a halt on all fossil fuel exploration.
  4. The proposed Bill erodes ENVIRONMENTAL BOTTOM LINES, dis-empowers the public and threatens democratic processes when it should be strengthening environmental protection and ensuring resource sustainability and public rights in decision making.

Read the rest of this entry »


A “diddly squat” and the “really chunky hard part”

06/05/2016

bottled water web

The recent Radio NZ interview with Environment Minister Nick Smith offered some interesting insights into the current government’s view and approach to the management of water.

Many argue that water is the most valuable and contestable natural resource of the 21st century. According to the United Nations, forty-one countries experienced water stress in 2011; ten of them are close to depleting their supply of renewable freshwater and must now rely on non-conventional sources. By 2050, at least one in four people worldwide are likely to be affected by recurring water shortages.

New Zealand is blessed with rich water resources, some 500 trillion litres of it flowing through our lakes, rivers and aquifers. Yet not every region is as ‘rich’, and even the ‘rich’ regions can be ‘poor’ at times.

In the interview, the Minister was adamant on two points:

  • No one owns water
  • No price will be put on water

Read the rest of this entry »


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