A coalition of climate justice organisations has written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urging her to prioritise decarbonising schools, hospitals and other state sector fixed-infrastructure within the first 100 days of government. The open letter, signed by School Strike 4 Climate Aotearoa, Parents for Climate Aotearoa, 350 Aotearoa, 350 Auckland, Coal Action Network Aotearoa, Coal Action Nelson,  Coal Action Murihiku, and Southland Forest and Bird, calls for the new government led by Prime Minister Ardern to kick-start this government’s focus on climate action by implementing an immediate ban on all new fossil fuel boilers for state sector buildings and committing to transition all existing fossil fuel boilers to renewably sourced power by 2025.

The coalition, which represents thousands of people across Aotearoa united by their concern about the climate crisis, calls on the government to live up to its commitment to take meaningful climate action in this term to match the significance of what Prime Minister Ardern has coined termed this generation’s ‘nuclear-free moment’.

350 Aotearoa Co-Director, Erica Finnie, said “It is unacceptable that in 2020 our state sector buildings continue to be heated by fossil fuels, despite leading climate scientists calling for a rapid transition away from burning coal, oil and gas to limit the worst impacts of climate change. The first 100 days in government is a crucial period in which the agenda for the rest of the term is set and action on climate change must be a top priority. As the leader of the new government, Prime Minister Ardern must demonstrate the government’s commitment to climate action and public health by committing to transition every school, hospital, prison and public sector building off climate-wrecking, polluting fossil fuels.”

Alicia Hall, Co-Founder of Parents for Climate Aotearoa, said “1 in 7 children and 1 in 8 adults experience asthma, not to mention all the other respiratory diseases impacting 700,000 New Zealanders today. It is unconscionable that the government continues to burn fossil fuels in our schools, hospitals, prisons and other state buildings when we must transition from fossil fuels to clean energy as soon as possible. We want to see our leaders taking the wellbeing of our communities and young people seriously, not just for our climate and environment but for our own health.”

Tim Jones, Coal Action Network Aotearoa spokesperson, said “The previous government made an important start on decarbonising the state sector. But the funding needs to be significantly increased, the process for applying for the funding needs to be made clearer and easier, and all parts of the state sector need to come on board. The results of the recent election clearly show that Aotearoa has rejected a fossil fuel future. It’s time to get coal and other fossil fuels out of public buildings. It’s time for the government to get its own house in order when it comes to ending fossil fuels.”

The government previously committed $200 million under the Clean Powered State Sector Fund in January 2020, some of which was allocated in its last term, but this figure falls well short of what is required to support all state sector buildings to transition away from fossil fuel boilers. In September, the government announced 18 priority schools to receive funding to decarbonise, while approximately 170 remaining schools across Aotearoa continue to burn fossil fuels.

The climate justice coalition’s open letter calls on the government to expand the budget allocation made to the Clean Powered State Sector Fund to provide sufficient funding for all remaining public sector buildings to transition from fossil fuel boilers to renewables by 2025, and provide clear guidelines for how individual schools, hospitals and other public institutions can apply for the funding and be supported to decarbonise.