The oil and gas ban shows NZ as a true leader on the hardest issue of our times

Fossil fuels are on the way out and New Zealand is leading the way, writes Claudia Palmer, the Campaigns and Mobilisation Manager for 350 Aotearoa.

The New Zealand government’s ban on offshore oil and gas exploration is leadership on climate change, plain and simple. For an issue so vast and fraught with difficulty and vested interests, the government’s approach is how New Zealand as a small nation can make the biggest difference globally. Here are five reasons why:

1.  The move correctly recognises who and what is responsible for causing climate change, namely, the fossil fuel industry. One hundred fossil fuel companies alone are responsible for 71% of emissions since 1988. This includes Shell, OMV and other oil & gas giants that have been operating in New Zealand.  The decisions made in the boardrooms of these companies have untold consequences for us all – not only have they caused the problem, but they have also actively created climate denial.

2. It’s not kidding people that the market, and consumer-choice can save the planet. The key determinant of whether we succeed at preventing more than 1.5°C of warming is if we can keep fossil fuels in the ground. The ban on offshore oil and gas does just that. It’s regulation, and it works. The next step will be implementing solutions that mean everyone has the choice to live sustainably, without the barrier of cost.

3. Leadership involves role modeling the actions you want others to take – yet all too many leaders have failed this integrity test on climate change. Stepping into the arena and making the politically challenging decision is the leadership we need. Along with Belize, Ireland, France and Costa Rica, these legislated bans on oil and gas break the tragedy of the commons and shift us towards a tipping point of global political will. The greater the example we set, the bigger the ripple effect.

4. The end of fossil fuels is inevitable – it’s not a case of if, it’s a case of when. As the latest IPCC report stressed, when must be immediately, or we’ll be implementing clean technology on a broken planet. The sooner we do it, the more time we allow to make a fair and equitable transition, and the better chance we have of averting the worst impacts of climate change.

5. New Zealanders are ready to embrace change. We have the tools, knowledge and widespread demand for climate change solutions, that all make this change possible. We have unions, iwi and local community groups, all ready to join the table with government in how to make this a just transition that works for the workers and communities most affected.

For an industry that has been burning up our time to take meaningful action on climate change, it was sadly ironic to hear oil and gas lobbyists plead with the Environment select committee that this was uncalled for, blindsided, and they needed more time. But rather, this is what we’ve been waiting for. It’s a clear indication that we’re finally creating the transformative change needed to curb global temperatures to 1.5℃. We have the opportunity now to demonstrate our just transition as a success story nationally and internationally.


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