Climate Action Network International has awarded the New Zealand Government a First Place “Fossil of the Day” award at COP28 for its climate U-turn, overturning its world-leading ban on offshore oil and gas exploration. At the same time, the Government has said it is continuing to advocate for global fossil fuel phaseout as its official negotiating position.
Oxfam Aotearoa’s Climate Justice Lead Nick Henry said:
“In the same breath as they’re calling for a global phase out of fossil fuels, our Government is rolling out the welcome mat and inviting polluting fossil fuel companies to return to Aotearoa. How can we justify doing just the opposite of what we’re calling on every other country to do?
“Pacific countries have been leading the call for a phaseout of fossil fuels – they stand to face the worst impacts of climate change, despite doing the least to cause the climate crisis. Less than a month ago, Pacific Islands Forum members including New Zealand “committed to the transition away from coal, oil and gas in our energy systems”, and agreed that they “aspire to a Just and Equitable Transition to a Fossil Fuel Free Pacific.” It’s challenging to see how overturning the exploration ban would take us toward these goals.
“Global fossil fuel phaseout needs to be just that, global. We all have to do our bit, and the science tells us there’s no room for any country to go looking for new fossil fuels to exploit. It’s understandable that other countries are upset by this U-turn and are calling us hypocritical.
“And that’s not all. The reason the Government has given for wanting to reopen offshore exploration is to look for new gas, which it claims is necessary for us to phase out our use and import of ‘dirtier’ coal. But in reality, our coal imports are at a long-term low, new research shows gas could be just as dirty as coal, and the Government also has plans to expand our coal industry.
“What we want to see is our Government committed to expanding renewables, not trying to sell us on false, dirty solutions. But while 118 countries, including our allies Australia, the US, UK and Canada, signed onto a pledge this weekend to triple renewables, New Zealand, disappointingly, wasn’t one of them.
“The 2018 ban on offshore exploration was hard won by Māori-led activism and positioned New Zealand as a global climate leader. We became associate members of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, a group of countries committed to bold action, in recognition of the ban. But the Government’s plans to invite polluters back to our shores, while calling on every other country to phase fossil fuels out, mean our international reputation is now in danger.
“Just a couple of days ago, our new Climate Minister Simon Watts told media that he didn’t expect any scrutiny at COP28 for the Government’s plans to reopen oil and gas exploration. Hopefully, this Fossil award will serve as the wake up call he needs to see that other countries do care what we do – and they want to see us truly doing our bit.”