Fri, Apr 13, 2018 - Page 6 News List

New Zealand bans new offshore oil exploration

‘ELITE CLUB’:The head of an industry trade group said that by joining the likes of Belize, Costa Rica and France, the country was heading opposite the worldwide trend

AFP, WELLINGTON

New Zealand is halting all new offshore oil and gas exploration to become a global leader in the fight against climate change, the center-left government said yesterday, but opponents accused it of “economic vandalism.”

“[We are] taking an important step to address climate change and create a clean, green and sustainable future for New Zealand,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

The oil and gas industry in New Zealand generates about NZ$2.5 billion (US$1.85 billion) per year, including NZ$1.5 billion in exports, and employs about 11,000 people.

Existing drilling and exploration permits would not be affected, meaning no existing jobs would be lost, Ardern said.

There would also be limited new onshore permits around the North Island’s Taranaki region, where most of New Zealand industry is concentrated, she said.

“We’re striking the right balance for New Zealand — we’re protecting existing industry and protecting future generations from climate change,” Ardern said.

She said she saw the impact of climate change firsthand last month, when she visited the cyclone-ravaged Pacific Island nations of Samoa and Tonga.

This underscored the fact that climate change was real and New Zealand needed to be at the forefront of efforts to address it, she added.

“We’ve been a world leader on critical issues ... by being nuclear free, the first to support women to vote,” Ardern said. “Now we could be a world leader in becoming carbon neutral. We owe this to future generations.”

The government said there are currently 31 oil and gas exploration permits, with 22 of them offshore.

Environmental groups welcomed the move, with Greenpeace saying that “the tide has turned irreversibly against big oil in New Zealand.”

“This is a huge step forward for New Zealand and a landmark moment in the transition to a clean-energy economy,” WWF New Zealand head Livia Esterhazy said.

The conservative opposition National Party accused Ardern of “economic vandalism” that could put thousands of jobs at risk.

Opposition energy spokesman Jonathan Young said gas helped ensure New Zealand’s electricity supply, and when existing reserves run out in 10 years, it would be forced to import emissions-heavy alternatives, such as coal.

“This decision is devoid of any rationale. It certainly has nothing to do with climate change,” Young said. “These changes will simply shift production elsewhere in the world, not reduce emissions.”

Industry group Petroleum Exploration and Production NZ (PEPANZ) said it had been blindsided by the announcement and had not been consulted by the government.

PEPANZ CEO Cameron Madgwick said a well-managed trading scheme was the way to reduce New Zealand’s emissions, not “arbitrarily banning” certain fuel types.

“We now join the elite club of Belize, Costa Rica and France that have banned exploration. I don’t think that’s really the way the world’s going,” he told TV3.

“Transitions have to start somewhere, and unless we make decisions today that will essentially take place in 30 years’ time, we risk abrupt shocks,” Ardern said.

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