Call on Jacinda Ardern to ban new fossil fuel boilers in schools and the wider state sector
Every child in Aotearoa should be able to go to school and breathe clean air, and every patient and healthcare worker should be kept warm and well by renewable-powered heating.
Currently, 1140 schools and a large number of our hospitals burn coal, oil, and gas for heating. This is a major risk to the health of our communities and our climate. Our government must fund a fast transition towards clean energy in our schools, hospitals, prisons and across the full state sector. While 90 schools were funded to transition in the past, the Ministry of Education has advocated for over 40 new fossil fuel boilers to be installed in the past 10 years. Instead of transitioning off fossil fuels entirely, we know that at least 27 schools have had to transition from coal to gas, oil, or diesel. 16 or more schools were fitted with new fossil fuel boilers instead of immediately offering cleaner alternatives.
Sign our open letter to Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern (cc Hon Chris Hipkins) calling on our government to ban new installations of fossil fuel boilers in schools and the wider state sector and prioritise decarbonising the state sector in the upcoming budget. It's up to us to send a clear message to our government that there can be no place for fossil fuel boilers that put our health and climate at risk in our schools, hospitals and other state sector buildings.
Sign our open letter to call on Jacinda Ardern to immediately ban new installations of fossil fuel boilers in schools and the wider state sector.
Tēnā koe Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern, cc Hon. Chris Hipkins,
I call on you to announce an immediate ban on all new installations of fossil fuel boilers in schools and the wider state sector. Fossil fuels have no place in schools and we need you to take concrete steps to phase out fossil fuels in our state sector.
You have declared that climate change is an emergency, and our generation's 'nuclear-free moment'. Like with the stand against nuclear energy, overcoming this issue will require strong leadership, ambition, and determination. The window of time in which to reduce our carbon emissions and limit the worst impacts of climate change is getting smaller every day. Your term in office is crucial to support our transition to a low-carbon economy.
I call on you, in your capacity as Prime Minister, to halt the expansion and installation of new fossil fuel boilers in our schools and the wider state sector. Burning coal, oil and gas is the single biggest source of carbon dioxide from human activity and it contributes to air and water pollution. The links between fossil fuel use and serious illness or death are becoming clearer every day. Health professionals are telling us that air pollution in Aotearoa causes over 1,200 premature deaths per year, and a significant proportion of this is derived from fossil fuel burning, as well as its contribution to hospitalisations from asthma and respiratory infections. The main burden of these is borne by children living in poorer and more marginalised circumstances. I understand that your government has already allocated $55 million to replace coal boilers in schools through the State Sector Decarbonisation Fund. We know that this funding will allow the Ministry to replace up to 90 coal boilers with low-emission alternatives such as wood pellet boilers and heat pumps by July 2023. This does not address the full extent of fossil fuel reliance in schools. Currently, 223 schools in Aotearoa still use coal-fired boilers for heating. A further 103 schools are reliant on oil/diesel boilers and 474 schools on gas boilers for heating. These schools tend to be concentrated in regions that have poor air quality and a range of respiratory health issues. It is unacceptable that fossil fuels continue to be burnt in so many schools, not to mention hospitals and prisons, in Aotearoa.
While 90 schools were funded to transition in the past, I was appalled to find out that the Ministry of Education has advocated for over 40 new fossil fuel boilers to be installed in the past 10 years. Instead of transitioning off fossil fuels entirely, we know that at least 27 schools have had to transition from coal to gas, oil, or diesel. 16 or more schools were fitted with new fossil fuel boilers instead of immediately offering cleaner alternatives. Schools rely on the Ministry of Education’s 5 Year Agreement funding and were being recommended to transition to gas in order to receive funding as recent as 3 years ago. For that reason, Prime Minister, I am asking you today to ban all new installations and transitions to fossil fuel heating sources in Aotearoa and allocate the necessary funding to convert all existing fossil fuel boilers in state sector buildings in Budget 2022.
I appreciate that the government is taking significant steps towards transitioning to a zero-carbon Aotearoa. However, I am also aware of the severity of the climate crisis and the urgency with which decarbonisation efforts need to be treated. Progressing policies to meaningfully reduce our emissions now will not only make a material impact on our overall emissions but will set an example for the rest of the world. Prioritising the transitioning of all existing fossil fuel boilers in state sector buildings to renewably-sourced heating will send a strong signal that burning coal and gas for heating is no longer acceptable when there are effective alternatives available. Ensuring there is a sufficient budget allocation in Budget 2022 is vital to make this happen.