Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is doing everything in her power to wean New Zealand off fossil fuels.
This week, the New Zealand government announced it will no longer grant any new offshore oil exploration permits. The 22 permits that have already been issued are set to expire in 2030.
The new Prime Minister, who took office last year, says this is all part of her aggressive, long-term plan to move towards a carbon-neutral future.
“When it comes to climate change, our plan is clear,” said Ardern, according to The New York Times.
“We are committed to the goal of becoming a net zero emissions economy by 2050.”
Ardern added that her ultimate goal is to switch the country’s electricity system to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.
New Zealand’s historical decision comes shortly after Ardern received a Greenpeace petition, signed by 50,000 people, that demanded an end to the country’s offshore drilling.
“The tide has turned irreversibly against big oil in New Zealand,” said the Greenpeace New Zealand executive director, Russel Norman.
“Today’s announcement is significant internationally too. By ending new oil and gas exploration in our waters, the fourth-largest exclusive economic zone on the planet is out of bounds for new fossil fuel exploitation. New Zealand has stood up to one of the most powerful industries in the world.”
But not everyone is happy about the decision. The opposition party in New Zealand has accused Ardern’s government of “economic vandalism.” The leader of the center-right National Party has even argued that Ardern’s decision doesn’t make “any environmental sense.”
The Govt's decision to end oil and gas exploration is a wrecking ball through regional NZ. It also doesn't make any environmental sense.
— Simon Bridges (@simonjbridges) 12 April 2018
“This decision will ensure the demise of an industry that provides over 8000 high-paying jobs and $2.5bn for the economy,” said Jonathan Young, the National Party’s energy and resources spokesman.
“This decision is devoid of any rationale. It certainly has nothing to do with climate change. These changes will simply shift production elsewhere in the world, not reduce emissions.”
Still, Ardern’s government has promised that “no current” jobs will be lost as a result of the change, which still honors “all agreements with current permit holders.”
Plus, when it comes to oil exports, New Zealand is already a small player. Since 2016, the country’s crude oil production has declined to its lowest level in a decade, and right now, New Zealand currently imports 97 percent of its oil.
“Transitions have to start somewhere and unless we make decisions today that will essentially take effect in 30 or more years’ time, we run the risk of acting too late and causing abrupt shocks to communities and our country,” argued Ardern.
Environmental organizations, like the Forest & Bird conservation group, are all for the new measure, which they say will help save sensitive creatures in the region.
“Half the world’s whale and dolphin species visit or live in New Zealand waters, from the critically endangered Maui’s dolphin to giant blue whales,” said Kevin Hague, the group’s chief executive.
“Today, these sensitive creatures are made safer from the threat of oil spills and the sonic barrage of seismic testing.”
New Zealand’s announcement comes as the Trump administration moves to expand offshore drilling in the US.