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United call for urgent phaseout of fossil fuel production in NZ – Oxfam report

While the Government plans new oil and gas exploration, Oxfam Aotearoa has published a new report saying it’s time to close the industry down for good.

Released on COP28’s Just Transition Day, ‘Closing Time’ shows how fossil fuel expansion would put New Zealand out of step with climate science and at risk of embarrassment amongst our diplomatic allies. But, the report says, there’s another option – a just transition and a full, fast, fair and funded phaseout of fossil fuels.

The report’s endorsers include the Council of Trade Unions, Greenpeace, WWF-New Zealand, ActionStation, 350 Aotearoa, Generation Zero, Parents for Climate Aotearoa, OraTaiao, Coal Action Network Aotearoa, the PSA, Common Grace Aotearoa, Protect Our Winters, ECO, Environment Hubs Aotearoa, Climate Action Network Australia, Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, and Oxfam in the Pacific.

Report author and Oxfam Aotearoa Climate Justice Lead Nick Henry says:

“Our report shows that right now in Aotearoa, our oil and gas production is already declining at the rate we need to do an average share of the global phaseout needed for 1.5 degrees. To do our fair share we need to move faster, closing existing fields early. Keeping the course for 1.5 degrees is critical for our Pacific family who are feeling the impacts of climate change first and worst.

“New Zealand has a unique opportunity to show global leadership here. Unlike many countries that still rely heavily on fossil fuels, we export most of the fossil fuels we produce – and with a clear just transition plan and investment, most of the rest could be quickly replaced with renewables. We absolutely can and should have a full, fast, fair and funded transition away from fossil fuel production in Aotearoa.

“The Government’s plans to overturn our ban on offshore exploration would be a costly mistake that would harm New Zealand’s international reputation and put our economy on the wrong track – with disastrous outcomes for our communities, our environment, and our climate. They also make us look hypocritical.

“Less than a month ago, New Zealand signed on to a declaration at the Pacific Islands Forum that said we were “committed to the transition away from coal, oil and gas in our energy systems”, and agreed we’d “aspire to a Just and Equitable Transition to a Fossil Fuel Free Pacific.”

“So, it’s worrying to see the Government getting ready to roll the welcome mat back out to the fossil fuel industry, with promises of a new oil and gas boom – not to mention digging ourselves into a hole with the suggestion of new coal mining.

“Instead, our Government could be playing an active role in scaling up renewables and planning a just transition.

“Ultimately, 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. While we might be a small country, we can have a disproportionate influence – we need to use that influence to stand strong with our Pacific family, not to keep serving polluting punters when it’s past closing time.”

The new report also reveals:

– Globally, the oil and gas in currently active fields would take us past 1.5 degrees of global warming. 58% of the fossil fuels in currently developed fields and mines must stay in the ground to keep within 1.5 degrees.

– New Zealand’s fossil fuel exports are small but cause disproportionate harm. Coal and oil combined made up only 1% of New Zealand’s exports in 2022 but produced emissions equivalent to more than 9% of the rest of our economy.

– Delaying the transition will only add to the problem of stranded assets and increase costs, including disruption to workers and communities.

– Getting our electricity grid off fossil gas must be a top priority for Government, as it’s the only remaining connection between fossil fuel production and energy security in Aotearoa (with all oil and most coal being exported).

Comments from endorsing organisations:

Alva Feldmeier, Executive Director of 350 Aotearoa

“Oxfam’s report comes at a critical time to remind the incoming Government of the need for a Just Transition away from fossil fuels and the importance of keeping to the 100% renewable electricity target set by the previous government. The report highlights how important the government’s role is in ensuring that the just transition is serving workers, the communities impacted by the extractive industries as well as the climate and wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

“Political election promises and populist politics cannot be used to jeopardise the future of the Pacific Islands and generations to come. The climate movement will fight tooth and nail to keep the ban on new offshore oil and gas permits in place and demand further action from the Govt to usher in the era of community-led Renewable Energy.”

India Logan-Riley, Climate Justice Organiser at ActionStation

“This report draws attention to the colonisation of Indigenous peoples, the commodification of Indigenous lands, and the carbonisation of our atmosphere. It sketches out the relationship where these injustices, the exploitation of workers, and the destruction of nature, are dispossessing a future for the generations that come. It aptly names this the fossil economy.

“And importantly, the report offers much-needed details and stepping stones in a just transition for everyone in the fullness of Te Tiriti.”

Glen Klatovsky, Chief Executive Officer of Climate Action Network Australia

“In Australia we have seen the devastation of the fossil fuel industry. Our nation is experiencing catastrophic climate impacts while contributing massively to the cause. All nations like ours must stop fuelling the fire. No more coal, no more gas, no more oil.”

Tim Jones, Coal Action Network Aotearoa

“An urgent just transition from coal, oil and gas use is essential. We must not go backwards, and this report provides a clear, evidence-based path that Aotearoa can follow.”

Richard Wagstaff, Secretary of the Council of Trade Unions

“Delivering a just transition for New Zealand, away from fossil fuels while maintaining great jobs across Aotearoa, will also help shift us towards a more productive, sustainable, and inclusive economy and society. New Zealand has a great image around the world for being a clean and green nation, one that cares for its environment and its future. It’s time to make that rhetoric a reality.”

Cath Wallace, Vice Chair of ECO

“ECO welcome the analysis in this report that the best way forward from our climate crisis and dependence on fossil fuels is to establish an economic system that is more considerate of environmental consequences and harms to people. We agree that the science is clear that an early end to fossil fuels extraction and use is essential.

“The report illuminates the structural problems Aotearoa New Zealand faces with the economic model and the injustices that we have inherited. Allowing further oil and gas exploration and exploitation will not only cost us dearly but lead to a huge burden of stranded assets, liability for the government and taxpayers for unabated emissions, and ongoing harm from climate destabilisation. The government must govern for all and resist the fossil fuel vested interests.

“Encouragingly, this report suggests a more environmentally focused policy within the foundations of the country and Te Tiriti will save environmental harms, reduce greenhouse emissions and the costs they incur, and provide greater justice.

“Importantly, the government needs to recognise that any fossil fuels future will mean New Zealand will have to pay dearly for emissions we allow and do not abate with his financial, social and biodiversity costs.”

Georgina Morrison, Executive Officer of Environment Hubs Aotearoa:

“Aotearoa New Zealand will be further harming its people and environment if we don’t urgently switch to more sustainable energy sources. Phasing fossil fuels out is paramount to meet our emissions targets and to protect our people and environment from even worse climate-related events”.

OraTaiao – New Zealand Climate and Health Council

“OraTaiao strongly supports a rapid phaseout in fossil fuel production in Aotearoa New Zealand and globally. The health benefits that will accrue from a well-designed switch away from fossil fuel use, such as improved air quality and reduced physical inactivity, will be additional to the harm avoided by limiting global heating to 1.5deg C. Known global fossil fuel reserves are in excess of what we can use if we are to keep to our climate obligations and there is absolutely and categorically no place for reopening offshore fossil fuel exploration in Aotearoa New Zealand’s waters. A sustainable, healthy and equitable future does not have fossil fuels as a part of it.”

Alicia Hall, Founder and National Co-Coordinator of Parents for Climate Aotearoa

“Parents for Climate Aotearoa strongly endorse ‘Closing Time’. Around the world and here in Aotearoa, countless whanau are struggling in a cost of living crisis and are deeply concerned about climate change. Some of these families are also dependent on employment in fossil fuel industries. Phasing out fossil fuels is crucial to ensuring our tamariki thrive in a safe and healthy climate – and a Just Transition will ensure we can make this change in a way that looks after these families and isn’t detrimental to their wellbeing.”

Marian Krogh, Lead Advocate at Protect Our Winters:

“The burning of fossil fuels right now is resulting in shorter winters, causing glaciers in Aotearoa and worldwide to melt, and for mountain town economies to struggle. Fossil fuel exploration is ruining our climate, winters, glaciers, and mountain towns for future generations. How can we achieve our climate reductions agreed in the Paris accord if we keep mining fossil fuels? We can’t. We already have plenty of fossil fuel reserves that can’t be burned. Aotearoa’s outdoor community says no to further exploration for oil, gas, and coal. A full, fast, fair, and funded phase out of fossil fuels is needed, alongside a just transition to renewable energy.”

Dr Kayla Kingdon-Bebb, Chief Executive Officer of WWF-New Zealand

“The Government owes it to all New Zealanders – and our neighbours in the Pacific who are on the frontline of the impacts of climate change – to consign fossil fuels to history and accelerate a just transition to renewable energy.

“Overturning New Zealand’s ban on new offshore oil and gas will not only hamper New Zealand in our efforts to meet our climate commitments, but it will pose significant risk to our relationships in the Pacific, our status as an export nation, and to our international credibility more broadly.”

 

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