New Zealand’s new Government created international headlines this week for its decision to reverse the world’s first smoking ‘generation ban’. Now another major u-turn is on the cards, as New Zealand pledges to overturn the world-leading ban on new offshore oil and gas exploration, just in time for COP28, the UN climate conference in Dubai.
Greenpeace Aotearoa spokesperson Amanda Larsson says, “Within a day of being sworn in, the new Government faced worldwide criticism over the smoking ban reversal. Now, our new Government’s first official foray on an international stage will result in yet more raised eyebrows as their policy to bring back offshore oil and gas exploration collides with global calls for a fossil fuel phase out at COP28.”
New Climate Change Minister, Simon Watts, confirmed to media yesterday that New Zealand’s official position is still to advocate for a global phase-out of fossil fuels at the UN climate conference, which opens in Dubai today. The Minister is already being questioned about his Government’s oil and gas policy being at odds with its COP28 negotiating position.
“New Zealand might regularly be left off maps, but surely Simon Watts is aware that we are, in fact, part of the world and included in global agreements,” says Larsson.
“We don’t need new oil and gas development here in Aotearoa or anywhere else. The ban on offshore oil and gas exploration won global accolades in 2018, and New Zealanders overwhelmingly supported an end to deep sea oil.
“Rather than continuing to put New Zealand on the map as an international climate leader, this new Government seems determined to make us a laughing stock.”
The new Government’s plan to reverse the oil and gas ban has already attracted reproach from Pacific leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum earlier this month.
“This is a warning of more criticism to come,” says Larsson. “The New Zealand Government cannot claim to support climate action whilst committing to expand fossil fuel development at home. We can expect to see much more criticism of the new Government’s plans during COP28.”
This year has been confirmed as the hottest year on record, with climate disasters seen around the world. Here in Aotearoa, Cyclone Gabrielle hit communities across the North Island and many communities are still recovering ten months on.
World leaders, from UN Secretary-General António Guterres to the High Ambition Coalition group of nations, alongside civil society, have called for this COP to agree to a phase-out of all fossil fuels. Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency has said yet again that there is no room for new oil and gas development if we are to stay below 1.5 degrees of global warming.
Greenpeace International has a delegation at COP28 in Dubai. Head of delegation Kaisa Kosonen says, “This is truly a unique moment in time. Solutions are now here, bigger and cheaper than ever before, ready to replace fossil fuels and bring us greater security. But it won’t happen fast enough unless governments regulate oil, coal and gas out of the way. COP28 can be the turning point, when governments act on the science, commit to protecting their own citizens, and agree to make fossil fuels history.”
Recently leaked documents have shown that the COP28 Presidency had planned to use COP as an opportunity to make deals with other nations on oil and gas. Others show that the global meat and dairy industry will have sizable delegations present that intend to platform livestock farming as sustainable nutrition – despite the livestock sector being a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, especially in Aotearoa.
Both Greenpeace Aotearoa and the New Zealand Green Party have launched open letters to the oil and gas industry, pledging to resist any attempt at new offshore oil and gas exploration in Aotearoa. Combined, the open letters have seen nearly forty thousand New Zealanders sign on in support.