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Climate crisis ‘insufficient’ to halt oil and gas exploration, says New Zealand government | New Zealand


New Zealand’s government has argued that the climate crisis is of “insufficient weight” to stop it issuing oil and gas exploration permits – despite declaring a climate emergency and committing to eliminate offshore exploration.

The government is in court defending its 2021 decision to allow fossil fuel companies to prospect for oil and gas in Taranaki. A group of students sued over the decision, saying the ministry failed to adequately consider the climate impact of the exploration, or give enough weight to crucial documents including advice from the climate commission and the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero By 2050 report.

Just six months before granting the permits, the government had declared a national climate emergency. The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said at the time that the declaration was “an acknowledgment of the next generation. An acknowledgment of the burden that they will carry if we do not get this right and do not take action now.

“It is up to us to make sure we demonstrate a plan for action, and a reason for hope,” she said.

In 2018 the government committed to no new offshore oil and gas exploration permits, but continued to grant permits onshore.

Scientists say the world must immediately stop prospecting for and exploiting new oil, gas and coal reserves if it wants to limit the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

In May 2021 a report from the International Energy Agency concluded that development of new oil or gas fields and coalmines must stop that year if the world wanted to reach its goal of net zero by 2050.

Investigations by the Guardian show that despite this, fossil fuel companies have continued to plan and invest in enormous “carbon bomb” projects that would catapult the world far beyond the limits required to keep warming below 1.5C. Many governments have continued to approve them.

Prof Paul Ekins of University College London, one of the authors of research into how much of the world’s fuel reserves must remain in the ground to end the climate crisis, told the Guardian last year that the situation was “absolutely desperate”.

“Whenever, wherever oil and gas is found, every government in the world, despite anything it may have said [about climate], tries to pump it out of the ground and into the atmosphere as quickly as possible.”

The energy minister, Megan Woods, has been defending the decision at the high court this week. Stuff reports that defence counsel Aedeen Boadita-Cormican​ argued Woods was not legally obliged to consider climate change, but did so anyway, and “gave it [climate change] insufficient weight” to refuse the permits.



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