New Zealand is stopping all new offshore oil and gas exploration to become a global leader in the fight against climate change, the center-left government said Thursday, but opponents accused it of "economic vandalism."
"(We are) taking an important step to tackle climate change and create a clean, green and sustainable future for New Zealand," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
New Zealand's oil and gas industry generates about $ 2.5 billion a year ($ 1
Ardern said that existing drilling and exploration permits are not affected, meaning that no existing jobs were lost.
She also said that there are limited new permits in the Taranaki region of the North Island, where most of New Zealand's industry is concentrated.
"We are creating the right balance for New Zealand – we protect the existing industry and protect the future generations from climate change," she said.
The relocation of New Zealand comes two weeks after the Netherlands announced plans to reduce production at – and ultimately close – Europe's largest gas field, as it also tries to beat the fossil fuel consumption.
Ardern fought hard for environmental issues when she won parliamentary elections last year and is in a three-way coalition government that includes the Greens.
She said she firsthand saw the impact of climate change when she visited the cyclone-ravaged Pacific island nations of Samoa and Tonga.
This, she underlined, underlined the fact that climate change was real and that New Zealand should play a pioneering role in its efforts.
"We were world leaders in critical issues … by being nuclear-free, the first to support women in voting," she said.
"Now we could be a world leader in CO2 neutrality, and we owe it to future generations."
The government said there are currently 31 oil (19659005) Environmental groups welcomed the move, Greenpeace said that "the tide has irrevocably turned against Big Oil in New Zealand".
"This is a great progress for New Zealand and a milestone in the transition to a clean energy economy," said Livia Esterhazy, head of WWF New Zealand.
"Kicks in the stomach"
But the conservative opposition National accuses Ardern of "economic vandalism" That could endanger thousands of jobs.
Opposition Gy spokesman Jonathan Young said that gas would provide New Zealand's power, and if its existing reserves were exhausted in 10 years, it would be forced to import emission-intensive alternatives such as coal.
"This decision is completely pointless, it certainly has nothing to do with climate change," he said.
"These changes will shift production elsewhere in the world, not reduce emissions."
New Mayor of Plymouth Neil Holdom said the decision was "a blow to the heart" for the Taranaki region.
"Nobody will lose their jobs overnight, but in terms of the long-term prospects for these industries … people are going" My career really has no future, "he told Radio New Zealand.
The petroleum industry group Exploration and Production NZ (PEPANZ) said it had been baffled by the announcement and had not been consulted by the government.  Chief Executive Cameron Madgwick said a well-managed trading system was the way to reduce New Zealand's emissions rather than "arbitrarily prohibit certain fuel types.
"We are now entering the elite club of Belize, Costa Rica and France for forbidden exploration, I do not think that's really th the way the world is going," he told TV3.
Ardern said that the industry had been given enough time to get used to changes in the sector that were a long-term necessity.
"Transitions need to start somewhere and we make decisions today that will essentially take place in thirty years, we risk abrupt shocks," she said.
January was the hottest month in New Zealand