“Every child in Aotearoa should be able to go to school, breathe clean air and be kept warm and well by renewable-powered heating. It is estimated that over 350,000 young people in Aotearoa attend schools that are still burning fossil fuels,” said Liam Rutherford, President of NZEI Te Riu Roa.
“It is essential that our schools are spaces for young people to engage in climate action and build resilience to adapt to climate change. Many of our children experience respiratory illnesses, so our schools need to be a place where they can learn without worsening or contribute to their health issues. The government must support our schools to transition off fossil fuels so they can be part of the solution, not a source of pollution,” said Alicia Hall, Founder, Parents for Climate Aotearoa.
“Fossil fuels are the leading cause of emissions that are causing the climate crisis globally. They have no place in keeping our young people warm at school,” said Erica Finnie, Executive Director, 350 Aotearoa.
So far the government has announced $50 million to fund around 90 schools to transition from coal to renewable energy, and the government estimates around 200 schools use coal boilers. The coalition understands that there are several hundred more schools using fossil-fuelled including oil, diesel and gas.
“Beyond the current funding, with 36 schools announced and over 50 to be selected, more than 100 schools will still be using coal boilers, and no schools using oil, diesel or gas have been prioritised for funding. In the upcoming Budget, the government must prioritise funding to meaningfully reduce our emissions by funding all schools, hospitals, and other state-sector institutions to transition from fossil fuels to renewable-powered energy by 2025,” said Finnie.
The coalition has been pushing the government to prioritise full state sector decarbonisation since its election and released an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern calling for an immediate ban on all new fossil fuel boilers for state sector buildings within the first 100 days in government.
“It’s time to get coal and other fossil fuels out of our public buildings. The government must show leadership to get its own house in order when it comes to ending fossil fuels, to set a precedent and grow the capacity for decarbonisation in all sectors,” said Tim Jones, spokesperson for Coal Action Network Aotearoa.
In a pre-Budget speech to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, Minister of Finance Grant Robertson outlined housing affordability, climate change and child wellbeing as its core priorities for the upcoming Budget.
“Our government has declared a climate emergency and set a goal for the public sector to be carbon neutral by 2025, but it needs to back this up with funding in Budget 2021 to decarbonise our communities. We expect to see the Government announce a transparent and comprehensive transition plan for all schools and state sector infrastructure to convert from fossil fuels to clean energy in line with its plans to be carbon neutral. We want to see a genuine clean energy transition in our state sector, not offsetting or other accounting tricks,” said Jones.
Liam Rutherford, President of NZEI Te Riu Roa
Alicia Hall, Founder, Parents for Climate Aotearoa
The Fossil Free State Sector Coalition is a collaboration of cross-sector organisations working together to achieve a fossil free state sector. The coalition members are Coal Action Network Aotearoa, Parents for Climate Aotearoa, School Strike 4 Climate NZ, NZEI Te Riu Roa, OraTaiao: New Zealand Climate and Health Council and 350 Aotearoa. Collectively we represent thousands of people across Aotearoa united by our vision for a clean-powered, equitable and just future for all.