3 November 2021
The PSA Eco Network convenors continue to send their aroha to everyone in these strange times, especially our members up in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland doing the hard yards for us all on slowing down the spread of COVID-19.
In this issue
- PSA commits to combating climate change
- Emissions Reduction Plan discussion document released
- RSVP to our Emissions Reduction Plan webinar with Minister James Shaw
- Eco Network promotes DHB sustainability
- Introducing our new Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Convenor, Shonagh Clark
- Introducing Sarah Wright – Eco Rep profile
This month’s bumper newsletter contains some pretty exciting news in the climate realm, from PSA’s own strategic goal refresh to the release of the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan discussion document.
PSA commits to combatting climate change
Grant Brookes, Eco Network national co-convenor
After a year-long review and refresh, the PSA Executive Board has now published the updated PSA Strategic Goals 2021-17. For the first time, combatting climate change is included in our union’s overarching goals. The Eco Network advocated strongly for this change. We said that a fifth goal, climate justice, should be added and that the four existing goals for the PSA should be amended to build the narrative of the intersections between climate and workers justice.
Although the Executive Board decided to stick with the four current goals, these have been amended to integrate climate action right across the work of the union. It is now the aim of the PSA that by 2024:
- Public and community services support a Just Transition for communities affected by climate, technology and other change
- Public and community service workplaces are leaders of decarbonisation and digital rights
- A just transition for public and community service workers affected by climate, technology and other change
- We are a sustainable and decarbonised union, fit for the future of union work.
As PSA President Benedict Ferguson told the PSA Working Life Journal this month:
“Climate change is going to affect our society, the ways we work and the environment we live in. It’s important we walk the talk, and make sure we are not contributing to the problem.”
The Eco Network will continue our input on the implementation of the PSA Strategic Goals 2021-27. In particular, we plan to help in the development of a PSA-wide definition of Just Transition and to ensure that all governance structures are considering this in their planning.
Emissions Reduction Plan discussion document released
Briar Wyatt, Eco Network national co-convenor
Consultation on the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan is now open until 24 November 2021. This is a step towards the widest reaching, and potentially most ambitious, climate policy this country has ever seen. Members of our rōpū have contributed to this work in numerous ways, either as Eco Network members or through their roles in public service, and it’s exciting to see this work start to come to fruition.
We are concerned about some gaps that need to be filled in order for this government to be fully committed, to for example a Just Transition, and we will need to use our union power to call for committed approach throughout the engagement process. The PSA released a statement on the Emissions Reduction Plan discussion document when it was released, which you can read here.
The Eco Network will be working with PSA Policy to support submissions and engagement in this space, so please watch this space for more communications from us. In the meantime, you can check out the full discussion document here.
RSVP to our Emissions Reduction Plan webinar with Minister James Shaw
Join us for a PSA Eco Network lunchtime webinar at 12.30pm this coming Thursday, and hear more from Climate Change Minister James Shaw about the consultation on the new Emissions Reduction Plan. What does it mean for PSA members? And why is it important that we have our say on what New Zealand is doing on climate change?
We’ll also have a member-led discussion on our PSA submission to government, and what it should include. You can register for the webinar right here.
Eco Network promotes DHB sustainability
Grant Brookes, Eco Network national co-convenor
Pressure is mounting on District Health Boards to become more environmentally sustainable. It might not be top of mind for people when they’re needing care from our hospital and health services, or even for some health workers, but the case for change is clear – and the PSA Eco Network has been helping to make it. Health is the largest emitter of carbon emissions in New Zealand’s public sector. It is estimated that healthcare services contribute between 3% and 8% of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
DHBs are also major consumers of renewable and non-renewable resources and create very large waste streams. A survey of seven DHBs in 2018-19 found that they generated around 1,600 tonnes per year on average. The Covid-19 pandemic has made the problem worse. Globally, 3.4 billion single-use face masks/face shields are discarded every day.
The environmental impacts of DHBs negatively affect the health of their communities, especially the health of disadvantaged groups who are already experiencing poorer health. This was recognised early by a few DHBs, like Northland, Waitematā, Hawkes Bay, Capital & Coast and Counties Manukau, which began measuring and reducing their carbon emissions as far back as 2011. But demands are growing for all DHBs to reduce their environmental footprint – from the public, from professional organisations like OraTaiao NZ Climate and Health Council, from health workers and networks of “green champions” inside DHBs, from our unions and from Government.
Environmental sustainability, including reducing carbon emissions, was added to the Health Minister’s letter of expectations for DHB Chairs in 2018/19 and strengthened in his letter of expectations in 2019/20. This year, annual planning guidance from the Ministry of Health reminds DHBs they’re part of the Carbon Neutral Government Programme, which aims for a zero carbon public sector by 2025, and that they are required to start measuring and publicly reporting their emissions from next year. As a result, the pace of change is accelerating. The new Taranaki Base Hospital, currently under construction, will be the first Green Star certified hospital building in the country when it opens in late 2023. Northland DHB is introducing 150 electric vehicles and installing charging infrastructure. Canterbury DHB will replace its current coal-fired boilers with two new biomass boilers in early 2022.
As well as these projects, some DHBs have recently adopted new long-term sustainability strategies. In June, Bay of Plenty DHB published its Kaitiakitanga Caring for People and Planet – A Framework for Environmental Sustainability. And in September, three Lower North Island DHBs (Capital & Coast, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa) adopted their new 3DHB Sustainability Strategy.
PSA Eco Network members contributed to that strategy, both through the CCDHB Green Champions group and in a formal submission seeking a more far-reaching vision. We have published our submission, sharing our ideas for other PSA members and health workers who might want to contribute to sustainability strategies in their DHB. And we are very keen to hear from any other Eco Network members who are active in this space. Please email us.
Introducing our new Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Convenor, Shonagh Clark
Like most Kiwis abroad, Aotearoa was the standard for clean, green and sustainable. Beaches and waterways unpolluted, natural farming, vast areas of protected forest, culturally sensitive and quality of life. Sadly, upon returning after 25 years in the Basque Country, I found a country in crisis. The only characteristic of a low wage economy was the low wages. House prices were beyond the reach of low-income families, rivers were dried up or polluted, beaches flagged as too dirty to swim in, erosion from deforestation devastating homes in heavy rains, overstocking on farms, antibiotics in livestock because of insanitary farming practices, overdependence on cars, absence of bilingual documents from government agencies, almost no bilingual schools, poor quality housing from unsustainable materials…
So, I joined the PSA Eco Network. I thought that with 80,000 members surely something would get done! We have four Eco-reps in Auckland workplaces, but it would be great to have one in every government department or agency. Let’s start making noise. Government and Industry have their part to play but the individual consumer has power, and we all have a responsibility to do our bit.
Introducing Sarah Wright – Eco Rep profile
Hi there, my name is Sarah Wright and I work for immigration at Auckland International Airport. I am the only Eco Rep at my workplace, but more people are becoming interested in the topic. We are a relatively small team who work to keep immigration risk offshore. If you have ever seen Border Patrol you may have seen what we do – or used to do, before COVID!
This is me on the only episode of Border Patrol I was on. Most people will find my colleague James far more familiar.
Since COVID-19 arrived our role has changed, and it has given me more time to look into the environmental impact that we, as an immigration branch, are having and try to come up with solutions. I am fortunate to have managers up the chain who support what I do and some progress has been made.
At the airport many, many single use face masks are disposed of into the landfill bins each day. I approached the company Future Post who recycling used face masks into fence posts. They advised that they were only using face masks supplied by Primepac as they (Primepac) were also collecting the used masks and delivering to the Future Post plant. I contacted Primepac and set up a meeting between their sales director and one of our supportive border managers.
We have now changed suppliers to Primepac and will be recycling all our single use face masks. Very pleased with that outcome. Every step in the right direction helps.
We would love to hear of success stories from other workplaces, as well as things you’re looking to achieve. Please get in touch.