The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, announced last Thursday, as part of his commitment to transition away from carbon-emitting fuels, that the government will no longer be granting permission for new oil-drilling operations in the country.
The decision is a huge step for New Zealand where lawmakers are becoming more serious about finding effective ways to tackle climate change. However, the offshore oil ban does not affect the 22 existing drilling operations, some of which still have years left before the permit’s expiration.
New Zealand’s Fight Against Climate Change
The Prime Minister announced that the decision to put an end to oil exploration projects comes as part of the country’s obligation to adopt carbon neutrality in the future in order to preserve the environment and the planet.
In his speech, Ardern said that the transition could be slow because of the existing oil projects which still have many years before their permits expire, but New Zealand is expected to move away from carbon-emitting fuels in the next 30 years.
Since the transition is expected to take decades, it is important that the country starts now, otherwise it might be too late to fight climate change.
Ever since the election of his labor coalition government in 2017, Ardern has declared that tackling urgent issues like climate change are his party’s top priority which is one of the reasons why the country has been making incredible progress in transitioning towards renewable energy resources.
The Prime Minister of New Zealand has promised that the country will be powered completely by renewable energy by 2030, and one of the ways to achieve this goal is by putting a ban on oil drilling projects.
Another big motivation behind the recent decision, besides the country’s commitment to curb the emission of greenhouse gasses, was New Zealand’s participation as a signatory for Greenpeace petition which calls for a worldwide ban on off-shore oil drilling.
Russel Norman, the executive of Greenpeace commended the Prime Minister for making the pivotal decision which could have a positive influence on other major countries. With the new oil ban, New Zealand, which is the world’s fourth biggest economic zone, has started a war against potentially the largest and most powerful industry on the planet.
Reactions to the Ban
Overall, the government has received an overwhelmingly positive response for placing the oil ban. The country’s Forest and Bird conservation organization says that New Zealand has taken a step in the right direction and the decision will be crucial in preserving endangered wildlife, especially since the country is home to half of world’s whale and dolphin species which are constantly exposed to the risk of oil spills.
Of course, the ban received criticism from the opposing political party which said that the Prime Minister’s decision was akin to economic suicide that could wipe out an entire industry and destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Oil companies have also voiced their disapproval against the ban, saying that the ending drilling project will be completely ineffective in reducing carbon emissions since large companies and automobile industry are still heavily reliant on oil and natural gas. Ending drilling projects will only mean that the oil will have to be exported from other countries at a higher price.
Representatives from oil and gas sector say that the decision has taken them by surprise since they had been assured by the labor government that their intention was only to end the country’s reliance on fossil fuel.
Catching Up with the Renewable Energy Trend
Other countries like Costa Rica and Belize are following in New Zealand’s footsteps by introducing bans and restrictions on oil drilling projects. In France, the government is looking into a complete ban against all carbon-emitting energy resources including natural gas and oil.
Now, with more and more countries joining the fight against climate change, renewable energy sector is attracting investments from around the globe, with the solar energy sector raising 161 billion dollars last year through investments. Even countries like Saudi Arabia whose economy is heavily dependent on oil business have started to move away from carbon-emitting resources in favor of solar power projects.