The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, has announced a ban on new permits for offshore oil and gas exploration. In a move that has been welcomed by the Bishop of Wellington, Justin Duckworth, Prime Minister Ardern said that existing exploration and mining rights would be protected; but that the new restriction was part of a “just transition to a clean energy future.” She said that the coalition parties were “striking the right balance for New Zealand – we’re protecting existing industry, and protecting future generations from climate change.”
Anglicans from the Diocese of Wellington had been campaigning for such a move. Last month they took part in a demonstration outside a petroleum conference in the city. The diocese has been campaigning for a ban on new land and sea permits. Today’s announcement relates only to offshore permits.
“Today’s announcement shows the government is listening,” Bishop Justin said. “We thank them for that and encourage them to take further steps towards a clean economy, including ruling out new coal mines and ending subsidies for the fossil fuel sector.”
Following her announcement, the Prime Minister gave a speech in which she said “We are anchored in the Pacific. Surrounding us are nations, including ourselves, who will be dramatically impacted by climate change. You can’t avoid seeing the impact around us, especially in the Pacific as warmer sea temperatures contribute to more storms, as we see more droughts and fires, and more extreme weather in general. That’s just the obvious impact of climate change. There’s also sea level rise, ocean acidification, the movement of mosquito borne diseases like zika and dengue.
“Tens of thousands of New Zealanders and Pacific peoples live on the coastline and will be affected by rising sea levels. That means people may need people to move their homes, breaking up communities and causing stress and hardship. Underground infrastructure and fresh water sources could be inundated with sea water, and crops that have previously been a staple will change or even disappear. For the pacific, this is not just a hypothetical, it is real.
“On my recent visit to Samoa and Tonga I saw the damage to homes. It was devastating and wide spread. And it wasn’t just homes that were affected. Schools, parliament buildings, businesses and infrastructure like power lines that were taken out by coconut trees. Families struggling to fix their homes were sending children to school where they had to learn in tents supplied by Unicef. The damage from these storms is immense and the reconstruction period is long and hard.”
To mitigate the crisis, Prime Minister Ardern announced goals of New Zealand becoming a net zero emission economy by 2050, with a 100 per cent renewably sourced electricity system by 2035. “They’re ambitious goals we should all be proud of,” she said. “And we have to be ambitious about what we can do to make a difference. Because in this enormous challenge we are facing, also lies opportunity for us.”