New Zealand to ban new oil and gas mining by 2050 for a green economy

Amanda Salazar, Editor-in-Chief

As the world moves closer and closer to the point of no return within climate change and the Trump administration strips away each environmental legislation put in place by previous administrations, it is a good time to revisit the idea of using renewable energy.

Before renewable energy — like solar or wind power — can be the main source of energy, the world must be committed to creating a global economy that does not reply so heavily on fossil fuels for gas and plastic consumption.

New Zealand has made efforts to move away from fossil fuels and in 2018 banned all new offshore oil and gas exploration.

“We’re striking the right balance for New Zealand — we’re protecting existing industry, and protecting future generations from climate change,” New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Offshore exploration means that industries set up plants in the middle of bodies of water to mine oil and gas from underwater locations. This can be done in gulf, oceans or even lakes.

Offshore exploration happens when the “shallow fossil fuel reserves and near-shore drilling locations have become exhausted” and are no longer yielding much fuel, according to an article from Live Science. The exploration then migrates deeper and deeper underwater as more oil is used up.

Arden was able to get the green legislation through Parliament and the Crown Minerals Amendment Act was passed with a 63-55 vote in November of that year.

The law banned new offshore oil and gas exploration effective immediately but allowed the permits that were currently operating to continue, including in the oil-heavy region of Taranaki, according to an article from the New Zealand Herald.

“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,” Ardern was quoted at a press conference in Wellington, New Zealand.

The goal of the ban was to help move the country toward a more renewable and green future, where fossil fuels would be a resource of the past.

Oil, coal and gas mining are not environmentally friendly. They disrupt wildlife and cause pollution. Oil spills can be deadly to animals and plants in the vicinity, as stated in an article from the Wilderness Society.

Arden and her administration planned for this to be a transition into beginning to rely on renewable energy sources, however, the 57 existing explorations and permits are allowed to continue their work until  as late as 2050.

“New Zealanders want to see a future for their country where we take action on climate change,” said the Minister of Energy and Resources Megan Woods in an article from Eco Watch.

“Where we have a long-term economic plan for our country, where we have the courage to look beyond the three-year political cycle and plan for the next 10, 20, 30 and 40 years.”

Their plan wasn’t a short term one, as Woods explained. It was to look out for the future generations of New Zealand and the rest of the world.

“The government has pledgedto power the country’s grid with 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 and aims to become carbon neutral by 2050,” the Eco Watch article said.

Offshore oil and gas mining can be very dangerous, as we know.Oil exploration already poses a threat to not only wildlife but also to miners and putting it out at sea where help is far away make it even less safe which cites another reason for the ban.

In addition, with reduced access to help in the case of emergencies, it makes the stakes even higher. Offshore oil drilling has caused fires and because the stations’ foundations are underwater, it makes them unstable.

While supporters of the legislation had good intentions, other members of the government wholeheartedly disagreed with the act, such as Petroleum Exploration and Production Association Chief Executive Cameron Madgwick.

“The decision is a lose-lose for New Zealand’s economy and environment, likely to threaten jobs and mean higher prices for consumers,” Madgwick was quoted as saying in the New Zealand Herald story.

It will be many years before the positive effects of New Zealand’s ban become evident, but that doesn’t mean other countries should wait around to act.

The long-term benefits of shifting to renewable energy sources will outweigh the initial inconvenience and its imperative to urge every country in the world to follow New Zealand’s model.