‘Just transition’ pathway to a low emission economy

Minister of Energy and Resources Dr Megan Woods is labelling a summit a ‘just transition’ to a low emission economy. Just for who?

She thinks a Summit will “spark vital conversation”. Who comes up with this language?

In comparison to this Simon Bridges sounds like an ordinary Kiwi.


Just Transition Summit to spark vital conversation

The inaugural Just Transition Summit to be held in Taranaki in May will be a chance for businesses, workers, Māori, youth and communities to have their say on New Zealand’s pathway to a low emissions economy, Minister of Energy and Resources Dr Megan Woods and New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom say.

Registrations for the Summit, which features high profile international speakers and will be held at TSB Stadium in New Plymouth on 9-10 May 2019, are open now.

“A successful and prosperous transition to a low emissions economy will take time and require a collaborative effort from all New Zealanders,” Megan Woods says.

“Achieving a just transition – one that is fair, equitable and inclusive ­– is a government priority. It will be an ongoing and evolving process and we all have an important role to play in working towards it together.

“The Summit will be an opportunity to progress the co-creation process and continue the conversation about what a just transition to a low emissions economy is and what it looks like for New Zealand. The government is already working with the Taranaki region on this and the Summit is an opportunity to showcase this important work.”

To successfully transition to a low emissions economy, we’re going to need a level of planning, investment and collaboration between Central Government and industry not seen since the Think Big era, says Neil Holdom, the Mayor of the New Plymouth District.

“Taranaki is at the forefront of the Just Transition, and it’s entirely appropriate to be kicking off these conversations here in our region, showcasing the work we’ve already got underway through our economic development strategy Tapuae Roa and the subsequent focus on retention of high value employment and wealth creation opportunities within the region.

“When we talk about a Just Transition, we’re talking about a fundamental change in the way we power our economy. Taranaki is the perfect region to lead from the front, given our decades of history with the energy sector and the knowledge, skills and expertise we’ve developed,” says Neil Holdom.

The Summit programme features exciting local and international speakers and has been designed to provide practical information and inspiration that attendees can use to start making their own changes as we move towards a low carbon future. It will be highly interactive with panel discussions and workshops, and opportunities for all parties to contribute their own input and ideas.

“I am really pleased with the programme and the calibre of speakers we have confirmed so far, who will be able to provide insights and information from a range of perspectives,” Megan Woods says.

“We’ll be making more announcements about other speakers soon.”

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Midnight Oil musician, environmentalist and former Australian Minister for the Environment Peter Garrett;
  • Doughnut Economics author Kate Raworth, who will speak about the economics of climate change;
  • sustainability, business and innovation expert Peter Bryant who will look at how technology can help us solve the emissions challenge; and
  • Director of the Brussels-based Just Transition Centre Samantha Smith, who will discuss the future of work and how businesses are changing the models to meet sustainability challenges.

Megan Woods says Taranaki is a natural fit for the Summit.

“Taranaki has already started work on its own transition roadmap and will be in a good position to share their progress and insights with us. The region is leading the way and their work will provide valuable ideas other regions and sectors can adapt to address their own challenges.”

Visit justtransitionsummit.nz for more information on the programme and to register. 

What: Just Transition Summit – a chance to help shape our pathway to a low emissions economy

When: 9-10 May 2019

Where: TSB Stadium in New Plymouth

Who: Businesses, workers, Māori, youth and communities are invited to join with the Government for this exciting two-day event.

Oil & gas ban will cost New Zealand, but how much?

The Government ban on most new oil and gas exploration permits was applauded by some and slammed by others. There have been warnings, and also assurances.

Investment, exports and jobs are at stake. And if New Zealand has to import gas when local production runs out it will increase global emissions – China produces methane from coal, much dirtier than direct extraction of gas.

A report commissioned by the Oil & gas industry claims the ban could cost the country $28 billion, but the Energy Minister disputes this.

Last June (RNZ):  Govt warned of ‘chilling effect’ over halting oil, gas permits

The government was warned by officials that if not handled well, its plan for future oil and gas exploration could have a “chilling effect” on investment.

The Energy and Resources Minister has released all of the Cabinet briefing papers and communications from officials, ministers and some industry players.

The papers said if the supply of natural gas was restricted, that could push up consumer prices, pose a “significant risk” to security of energy supply and have a detrimental impact on some regional economies.

Energy Minister Megan Woods said that was “free and frank advice” but she described it as “standing still” advice.

The government had since “accelerated” work towards the transition towards renewable energy, she said, and she did not expect the halt to most future exploration permits would have an “immediate impact”.

But she acknowledged the change in policy would have a direct effect on the energy industry.

“We’ve got ourselves a window of time to put in place proper transition planning so we’re not leaving individuals without a future and without hope.”

The documents warned that if all future gas exploration was halted, consequences could include a possible increase in global greenhouse emissions.

Methanex is the largest global supplier of methanol, and has two processing facilities in New Zealand.

Officials said Methanex needed a consistent supply of affordable gas, and new discoveries would be needed to keep it operating past 2021. The amount of methanol produced in New Zealand was “significant” globally and currently supplies the Asia Pacific market.

If Methanex closed down, or cut back on production, China would pick up the slack, said the briefing papers.

The problem with that is, though, two thirds of China’s methanol is produced from coal, producing three to four times more greenhouse gas emissions.

Yesterday:  Government’s oil and gas ban could cost country $28b, new economic analysis finds

The Government’s oil and gas ban could cost the country $28 billion dollars, according to new economic analysis.

The report, by the NZ Institute of Economic Research, found the ban would be felt most keenly in Taranaki, with a 42 per cent drop in exports and another big drop in living standards there.

But it warns the impacts will be felt across the country – with a cost of $15,000 per household when averaged across the country.

The Petroleum Exploration and Production Association, or PEPANZ, paid for the report and its chief executive, Cameron Madgwick, says it makes for sobering reading.

“It reveals some very very large costs to New Zealand and in particular Taranaki,” Mr Madgwick told 1 NEWS.
“The Government should really now take the time to assess this new information that wasn’t available to it at the time it made its decision and reconsider it.”

NZIER’s report predicts that losing the oil and gas industry will cost $28 billion over the next three decades – the equivalent of building 20 new Dunedin hospitals or buying 43,000 KiwiBuild homes in Auckland.

Energy Minister Megan Woods disputed the report’s predictions.

“This could be the case if the Government buried its head in the sand and did nothing – we have made a bold decision and the right decision for New Zealand,” Ms Woods said.

“But we’re not just sitting back and magically hoping the future plays out in Taranaki. We’re working on the ground with that community.

“We’ve put $20 million through the Provincial Growth Fund into various projects.”

It will take more than $20 million to replace the investment and jobs if the Oil & Gas industry shuts down.

Ms Woods rejected PEPANZ’s call for it to reconsider the ban in light of the new report.

“PEPANZ, of course, is the oil and gas industry’s lobby group. I’m not surprised that that’s the view they’re taking, but no, that’s not something we’re considering.”

National Party media release: Assessment of ban – we’ll be poorer not cleaner

New Zealanders will end up poorer as a result of the Government’s ban on new oil and gas exploration, but they’ll have nothing to show for it in terms of slowing climate change, National’s Energy & Resources spokesperson Jonathan Young says.

“NZIER has done the analysis that the Government ought to have done before recklessly banning new oil and gas exploration. The ban may read as a step toward a low-carbon economy but this report says its biggest achievement will be to wipe $28 billion off GDP.

“As expected, the Taranaki region fares the worst. The ban will reduce the region’s economy by almost 50 per cent. That’s $21,000 a year in real purchasing power per household wiped out in Taranaki between now and 2050. Nothing the Government has announced goes anywhere near making up for that loss.

“The report makes clear the Government rushed in, without an audit on the economic costs to New Zealand. Now the industry has funded the work itself from NZIER – work that Minister Megan Woods should have ensured was done.

“Dr Woods says the Government wants a shift to electricity or hydrogen but the transition to hydrogen as a fuel source could cost up to ten times more than natural gas, making some industries uneconomic and driving up power prices for families already having to stretch each dollar further.

“We all agree on the need to reduce emissions but drawing a roadmap to 2050 after you’ve made a wrong turn down a no exit road won’t get us there. National would repeal the ban and ensure all options are on the table to combat climate change and safeguard our economy.”

Greenpeace (NZ Herald):

Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson said an oil industry-commissioned report claiming to show the Government’s oil and gas exploration ban will cost billions is nothing but “fake news and flatulence”.

It will remain a contentious policy, but it looks like the Government is determined to continue with the ban.

‘Record investment’ in low emission vehicles, but still paltry

The Government has announced more funding in support of the use of ‘low emission’ (mostly electric) vehicles, but it is still paltry amounts. It may be a bit more than lip service but it is hardly going to launch us into a transport revolution.

Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods:  Record investment in low emissions vehicles announced

Low emission transport will receive a record boost totalling more than $11 million, Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods announced today.

“Today I’m announcing the largest round of new funding from the Government’s Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund yet.

“Thirty one exciting new low emissions transport projects will share over $11 million of funding to help more Kiwis make use of new transport technology.

“This funding is made up of $4.3 million of government co-funding and $7.3 million of funds from the private sector. That’s a smart investment that means the maximum benefit for the taxpayers spend.

That’s $4.3 million of Government funding. It suggests that not a big priority is going alternative energy transport.

“This round of funding focuses on innovative projects that expand the use and possibilities of electric vehicles and other low emissions technology in the transport space. It’s about making new technology available to help Kiwis get around, lower our carbon emissions and contribute to our economy.

“From 100% electric campervans for tourists to hydrogen fuel cell powered buses at the Ports of Auckland to solar panel charged electric vehicles and trial of smart chargers in people’s homes, we’re backing new technologies that will make a difference.

“We’re also funding a further 34 new public charging spaces for electric vehicles right around New Zealand, including several at South Island tourism hot-spots. This is about creating a truly national infrastructure of EV charging so that all major trips around our country are available to EV users.

34 charging stations around the country is not a big boost – and it doesn’t solve all the problems of using EVs. A small increase in the number of charging stations will help a bit, but they are still few and scattered, and the range of EVs and the time required to charge them are still significant negatives.

“This is by far the biggest round of new projects delivered by the Fund. Each previous round has given the green light to between 14 and 18 projects. In total, the fund has committed $17.2 million in government funding to 93 projects. This is matched by over $45 million applicant funding.

Trying to talk up an underwhelming investment.

“Transport is responsible for about 18% of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions, so one of the most effective ways for us to help tackle climate change is to transition our fossil-fuelled transport fleet to run on clean, renewable energy sources. By helping to roll out that technology to more people than ever, today’s announcement helps more Kiwis cut their transport emissions.

It will help a small number of Kiwis charge their vehicles.

The 31 projects are listed, ranging from tens of thousands to a few hundred thousand dollars. It is hardly going to encourage people to invest more in electric vehicles.

But I guess it’s something.

For more information about the fund, visit www.eeca.govt.nz/funding-and-support/low-emission-vehicles-contestable-fund/

For general information about EVs, see www.electricvehicles.govt.nz

 

Government decides better weather data access ‘not a priority’

The Government has decided not to change access to weather data in New Zealand, putting improved access into the ‘not a priority’ basket.

A spokesperson for Minister of Research, Science and Innovation Dr Megan Woods said that NIWA was “performing satisfactorily against the New Zealand open data principles, therefore no changes were necessary for its data-access provisions”.

This is despite a 2017 review of open-access weather data for MBIE found New Zealand had the most restrictive barriers out of the United States, Norway, Australia, the United Kingdom and France.

Stuff: Weather data remains restricted –  Government not stepping in to release more taxpayer-funded weather data

The Government has no intention of changing how New Zealand’s two taxpayer-funded forecasting agencies work in an effort to improve access to weather data.

Minister of Research, Science and Innovation Dr Megan Woods says changes have already been signalled by state-owned enterprise MetService to improve data access for competitors, meaning “its services will better align with New Zealand’s open data principles”.

Woods said the decision not to change Niwa and MetService’s operating models was made by her, Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Associate Minister of State-Owned Enterprises Shane Jones after discussions in September last year.

In a briefing, released to Stuff under the Official Information Act, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) proposed five options for improving access to data, ranging from the status quo to structural changes of both agencies.

MBIE recommended negotiating changes with both to minimise any possible loss of income from releasing what is largely taxpayer-funded data.

But other documents released showed Treasury did not want to pay for any solution and said MetService’s planned changes were enough, a recommendation that was adopted by the ministers.

MetService’s data changes already under way include:

– A new website with improved data support to be rolled out in the first half of this year.

– A new interface to make a wider range of free data, up to a certain level, publicly available.

– Provision of open oceanographic data.

WeatherWatch managing director Philip Duncan…

…said it was ironic, but unsurprising, that significant parts of the reports dealing with open access to data had been withheld.

“Taxpayers must fund both Niwa and MetService, then we cannot use the data we fund, and on top of that the Government redacts information about why.

“If both Niwa and MetService operate heavily commercially, and both say they are highly accurate, why would the Government need to give them even more money for apparent ‘lost revenue’ if they opened up data?”

National’s research, science and innovation spokeswoman, Dr Parmjeet Parmar​…

…said it was disappointing the Government had opted for “business as usual” after recent reviews.

“With this decision she is going to do nothing. After all this work, and now she has come back and stopped this halfway. In my view it has been a big waste of resources.”

Woods:

“The ministers decided changing the legislative and operating model was not a priority when [the] Government is tackling a number of other priorities”.

Labour has used “not a priority” as an excuse for not doing things they have previously indicated they might do (before they got into Government).

‘Not a priority’ – not actually a progressive government as claimed by Jacinda Ardern..

‘Hasty’ lawmaking may lead to increased emissions

The Government surprised many with an announcement that they would limit future oil and gas exploration. Some hailed it as a sign they were serious about reducing fossil fuel use and reducing carbon emissions, but others have warned that it may actually increase emissions as people are forced to switch from gas to more polluting fuels.

Reductions in energy use and a switch to alternative energy would help alleviate the situation, but the Government has done little but talk about any of this side of the energy equation.

ODT:  Effect of ‘hasty’ law-making

The hasty passing of legislation banning offshore oil and gas exploration is another example of how little the Government is considering the longer term implications of its ideologically-driven law-making.

Our country’s ongoing energy security is an issue for all New Zealanders, but the Crown Minerals (Petroleum) Amendment Bill, passed under haste on November 7, will impact significantly on this.

It deserved far more consultation and analysis than was permitted by its fast-tracking.

The Minister for Energy Dr Megan Woods admitted that no assessment had been undertaken of just how the ban imposed by the new law would lower greenhouse gas emissions, or what the economic fallout will be.

Some commentators argue the ban will actually lead to an increase in carbon emissions, because in the absence of a new gas supply coming on stream here, users will either be compelled to import fuel potentially from less environmentally-conscious producers or switch to coal, which is hardly an eco-friendly substitute.

Furthermore, energy costs are likely to increase, which will hurt not only our economy but the most vulnerable in society.

Many New Zealanders may not be aware that our current gas supply is likely to last for just seven more years and production volumes will diminish from 2021 onwards.

Given that the Government has effectively ruled out new offshore oil and gas exploration; and the fact onshore activity is unlikely, our chances of finding alternative gas supplies within our jurisdiction rest on prospecting activities permitted before the legislation came into force. Two of these are in South Island waters, off the coast of Otago and Southland.

But the business of realising a commercially viable discovery on a hydrocarbon prospect is a lengthy and complicated one. There is no certainty of outcome; the historic chances of success are one-in-five. Should either of these prospects fall inside those odds, however, the ensuing development offers our region and our country many benefits, even as we move towards a carbon-free future.

Of course, let’s not forget the hydrocarbons lying beneath the ocean floor are a carbon-based energy source, something we’re moving away from. But gas is a cleaner-burning fuel than oil or coal. Surely, as we move towards a carbon-zero future, a transition away from oil and coal using cleaner fuels is the most sensible option to enable us to continue to be productive.

New Zealand Oil & Gas chief executive Andrew Jefferies has said that if our dairy plants transitioned from coal to natural gas, and if fertiliser and methanol plants could be built here, New Zealand gas would be better for the Earth than alternative energy sources such as Canadian tar sands, or bitumen from Venezuela.

Everyone acknowledges that we need to move away from the consumption of fossil fuels, but until sufficient alternative energy sources are found we need to secure our energy future so we can sustain our economy and our homes.

-NZ Oil & Gas has until April 2019 to commit to drilling off Oamaru, and April 2020 to similarly commit to the Toroa permit, south of Dunedin. OMV was granted a two-year extension in October, pushed out to July 2021, to drill an exploratory well off Otago’s coast.

The Government rushed through a ban on more exploration, something that thrilled Greens and dismayed NZ First, hobbling the cart before they have found a replacement for the horse.

Perhaps this year they will come up with an alternative energy plan.

NZ plummets in energy investment ranking, Government happy

New Zealand has dropped from 14th to 46th in a ranking of attractiveness to energy investors. This isn’t surprising after the Government put significant limitations on oil and gas exploration.

‘Green’ or alternative energy prospects don’t seem to rate – I’m still unclear how we will meet al our energy needs if we transition away from fossil fuels completely as some want.

NZH:  Survey of top energy executives shows NZ has become a lot less attractive for investors

An annual survey of the world’s leading oil executives, which ranks the ease of investment into oil and gas producing countries, shows New Zealand has dramatically dropped down the list in terms of its attractiveness to investors.

The Fraser Institute, which has run the survey every year for 12 years, asks executives to rank provinces, states and countries according to the extent to which barriers to investment in oil and gas exploration and production are present.

New Zealand’s attractiveness to investors has dropped from the 14th highest country/region to 46 in the space of a year.

“This drop is based on poorer scores with respect to political stability, environmental regulations and protected areas and taxation in general,” the report said.

The Opposition is critical.

National’s Energy spokesman Jonathan Young put the blame for the drop squarely in the lap of the Government.

In April, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern banned future offshore oil and gas exploration in New Zealand with the exception of Taranaki.

The ban took the industry by surprise because it was not part of any confidence and supply or coalition agreement and had not been explicitly promised by Labour during the election campaign.

According to some industry players surveyed in the Fraser Institute report, this was a key reason for the drop in New Zealand’s attractiveness.

“New Zealand’s move to ban new offshore exploration is a deterrent for investors,” one said.

“Jurisdictions that are openly hostile towards resource development, like New Zealand, cause investors to take their investment dollars elsewhere,” said another.

Young was not surprised by this and said the ban had “scared off” potential investors and would cost the economy tens of millions of dollars.

It’s not surprising – it looks like to an extent at least it was the intent of the ban, or it must have been at least a predictable consequence.

Energy Minister Megan Woods is unrepentant:

“We’re incredibly proud of the fact that New Zealand is leading the world on a managed, long term transition to a clean energy future.”

Hardly. The Government has limited fossil fuel exploration possibilities, but I have seen little of the other side of the equation – alternatives.

“International investors will consider a range of information when making decisions about where to invest, including the likelihood of a discovery and the likely value of any potential discovery.”

Climate Change Minister James Shaw was not surprised by the survey.

He said because oil and gas exploration was being phased out in New Zealand, there was not actually much more investment in the sector that was needed.

“So it’s unsurprising that investors in that industry would be saying that over the long term it’s not a place they wanted to end up.”

Shaw needs to come up with a credible path to sufficient alternative energy to replace fossil fuels, otherwise we will either have an energy shortfall, or will have to rely more on more expensive imports of fuel.

I’d love to see polluting fuels phased out, but I would also love to see a realistic and viable plan for what will replace them. At the moment I see little more than pie in the sky idealism.

Energy of dreams – ban them, and alternatives will come. Maybe.

 

The public ‘being fleeced’ by petrol companies, duped by Ardern

Following rising petrol prices and rising rhetoric from Simon Bridges and others, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that she thinks consumers are being fleeced by petrol companies.

She says that the Government is ‘prioritising’ an urgent amendment of the Commerce Amendment Bill – to do market studies that might eventually say something like petrol prices have been higher than the should have been for years.

NZ Herald: ‘Consumers, in my book, are being fleeced’ – PM Jacinda Ardern on petrol prices

National Leader Simon Bridges has been critical of the Government and its fuel taxes which he said is pushing the price of petrol up.

“Unlike petrol, talk is cheap. And the Government is a big part of the reason why petrol prices are so high.”

Petrol prices are creeping up to $2.50 in some parts of the county.

In response:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has launched a scathing attack on fuel companies, telling reporters she thinks “consumers are being fleeced” at the petrol pump.

“I am hugely disappointed in the level of price that consumers are currently paying at the pump for fuel,” she said at her weekly post-cabinet press conference today.

Ardern came out swinging, pointing the finger at fuel importers – such as Z Energy, BP, Mobil and Gull – and their margins.

“Between 2008 and 2017, the margins importers were taking for themselves more than doubled from 7 per cent to 16 per cent.

“That increase represents a transfer of wealth from petrol consumers to producers, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.”

Between October 2017 and September this year, petrol prices have risen 39c – Ardern said just 6.8c of this was tax.

But 9.8c of that was down to the margin from importers, she said.

“I do not see that as acceptable.”

In fact, she said that pre-tax, New Zealand has the highest cost for fuel in the OECD. In 2008, New Zealand had some of the lowest.

Given the concerns about “anti-competitive behavior” in the fuel market, the Government has prioritised the passing of the Commerce Amendment Bill.

This bill would amend the Commerce Act to enable the Commission to undertake market studies.

Once the bill is passed, Energy Minister Woods has signalled that she intends to ask the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Kris Faafoi to request the commission to conduct a market study into fuel markets to better understand how the market is functioning.

Ardern is anticipating the bill to be passed in two weeks’ time.

The study will report back next year, and the Government will prioritise a response to what the Commerce Commission finds.

So an urgent amendment to initiate a study that will report back some time next year.

Another bloody Government inquiry on something they say is a priority requiring urgency. We have been paying increasing petrol prices for how long?

Bridges said the Government should axe its fuel tax increases to provide immediate relief to motorists.

“[Ardern] is saying consumers are being ‘fleeced’ while her Government is driving up fuel prices and taking hundreds of dollars from Kiwi households through higher taxes on fuel.

“The [Commerce Commission] inquiry will take months and any resulting changes could be years away. Meanwhile New Zealanders are paying record prices for petrol and the Government is collecting hundreds of millions of extra tax [dollars] from them.”

We are reminded of petrol prices whenever we fill up our vehicles, so this could be an effective line of attack from the Opposition.

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): If the Government is so certain motorists are being fleeced, what is it waiting for?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is convinced that Kiwis are being “fleeced” when they pay for petrol.

“As a moral stance, I think New Zealanders are paying too much,” Ardern said.

With motorists paying close to $2.50 a litre for petrol in many parts of the country, it is understandable that the issue is back in the headlines, and that the Government wants to be seen to be taking action.

The problem is, the action being taken is to ask the Commerce Commission – effectively the referee on whether consumers are being ripped off – to investigate. These studies tend to take around a year.

If Ardern is already convinced that a rort is taking place and Energy Minister Megan Woods believes the market is “broken” as she said in May, why are they bothering to investigate?

This has been an issue for years – and that means under the last Government as well.

Simon Bridges also criticised Ardern for announcing “yet another inquiry”, when for years National failed to give the Commerce Commission the teeth it needed to investigate a market it also believed was flawed.

Had it acted earlier, we may be closer to a definitive answer.

But the Government’s urgency has a rich irony. Ardern has described climate change as New Zealand’s “nuclear free moment”.

Her Government seen fit to crack down on the oil exploration industry, ending new offshore permits, purportedly as a means to take action.

But the reason the climate is warming is not because fossil fuels are being extracted, it is because people are burning them.

If Ardern was really serious about tackling the issue, surely she would do something about demand.

But that is a probably subject to some sort of ongoing process or inquiry too.

Ardern is fiddling while petrol prices keep burning consumers in their wallets and purses.

Gareth Hughes versus Megan Woods on oil and gas exploration

Green MP Gareth Hughes has made it clear that he and the Green party disapprove of a concession given to the oil and gas exploration industry, as announced by Minister of Energy Megan Woods.

Hughes in a speech in parliament in March:  End Oil Exploration, General Debate Speech

While the media debate the pros and cons of oil exploration you can’t debate the physics of climate change.

Scientists warn we can’t afford to burn 75% of the fossil fuels we’ve already discovered if we want to avoid dangerous climate change.

A study in Nature Communications last year found if we burn all available fossil fuels, we’ll cause the fastest climate change in 420 million years!

Exploring for more oil is like pouring petrol into an already filled gas tank and lighting a match.

This is the nuclear-free moment of our generation.

We find ourselves at an important historic turning point – will we continue exploring for new oil and gas that we can’t afford to burn?

To get there we need to transition away from fossil fuels like oil.

Given some existing permits don’t expire until expire 2046 we need to stop granting more.

That’s why I’m calling on the government to stop offering new exploration permits for fossil fuels.

Our future isn’t more oil rigs off our coasts it’s wind turbines on our hills, insulation under our roofs, solar panels on top; modern public transport in our cities and sustainable zero-carbon jobs in our regions.

I support the end to exploration.

On Monday: Bill to end new offshore oil and gas permits a win for the planet

The Green Party welcome the introduction of the Crown Minerals Amendment Bill, which will legislate to officially stop new offshore oil and gas exploration permits.

“This is a special day for the planet, and proof that this Government are now meaningfully acting to address climate change”, Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes said today.

“This is Greens in Government at its best and represents an important step to stopping new offshore permits, so that our environment is better protected.

“We’re looking forward to the upcoming wider review of the Act. We will push hard to change the purpose of the Act so that exploration is ‘regulated’, not ‘promoted’ by this Government.

Surprisingly given the Green Party’s in ending the use fossil fuels and ending oil and gas exploration it looks like they were blind sided by Woods’ announcement on Tuesday:

Mining companies with existing licenses for drilling have a time limit on when they can explore. If they reach the time limit, their permits are handed back to the Crown.

Oil drillers shouldn’t be offered special treatment to extend or waive that time limit. I struggle to see the point in banning offshore exploration for oil and gas if existing companies with huge blocks can hold off from exploring until way later down the track.

Hughes followed up in Parliament yesterday:

Question No. 7—Energy and Resources

7. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does she stand by her reported statement that she will “consider giving the oil companies more time to fulfil their commitments on the permits”; if so, which permits are currently facing a “drill or drop” decision in the next two years?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Energy and Resources): Yes, I am in discussion with officials regarding the possibility of exercising my statutory powers, as the responsible Minister, to make changes to petroleum exploration permits. Any such change would be made on a case by case basis under the current law. There are 16 permits with “drill or drop” decisions in the next two years. More information about all active petroleum exploration permits, including “drill or drop decision” points, is publicly available on the New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals website. As the member is aware, our Government is committed to a long-term transition away from reliance on fossil fuels, and the introduction of legislation this week reflects exactly that commitment.

Gareth Hughes: Does she stand by the Government’s historic decision to halt offshore oil and gas exploration, and if so, does she think a long tail of up to 16 active permits undermines this decision?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: In answer to the first part of the question, yes, and in answer to the second part, no. As we’ve been clear, the Government is committed to a long-term transition away from fossil fuel exploration and a clear plan for our future. We’re achieving this by issuing no further offshore exploration permits, while also protecting the existing exploration permits that cover 100,000 square kilometres, to enable a smooth transition over the coming decades. This is a sensible approach that allows regions, communities, industry, and the workforce a just transition to a low-carbon future and avoids sudden economic shocks like we saw in the 1980s.

Gareth Hughes: Does she agree with recent comments by our climate ambassador Jo Tyndall that this Government has sent a clear signal to industry that we are phasing out oil and gas extraction, and if so, does relaxing the work programme deadlines on permits undermine that message?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I do agree and am proud that we are ending offshore exploration and are committed to a just transition, and we’re not relaxing those conditions.

Gareth Hughes: If the Minister grants extensions to any offshore permits, will she limit their duration, and if so, what time frame will she use?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: As I indicated in my primary question, each of these needs to be on a case by case basis, and I will consider those applications on a case by case basis.

Gareth Hughes: Will the Minister commit to passing more wide-ranging changes to the Crown Minerals Act (CMA) this term to ensure New Zealand does transition away from fossil fuel extraction?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: As the member knows, the first tranche of the CMA reforms was introduced this week. This legislation is to give effect to the Government’s decision about the future of offshore petroleum exploration. Our intention is to begin tranche two following the passage of this legislation, and we’ve long signalled that tranche two will involve a comprehensive review of the CMA and will engage with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure the legislation is fit for purpose as we make this transition. The Government’s decision about—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! That’s enough. That’s enough.

Hughes followed that up:

Hughes is the Green Party spokesperson for Energy & Resources. It seems odd that he hasn’t been closer to Woods and what she is doing and announcing on this – has she ignored Hughes and the Greens?

Surprisingly there is no mention of fossil fuels or oil and gas in the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement.

And as Climate Change Minister where is James Shaw on this? Last week in an email to party supporters – James Shaw promoting Green achievements

Being in Government means we can deliver on our Confidence and Supply Agreement – but it also means so much more. For instance, we got an end to new exploration for offshore oil and gas – yet this wasn’t covered in our agreement.

It seems that they didn’t get as much as they thought they had.

 

‘A bit of a backdown’ on oil and gas exploration annoys Greens

It appears that the government has backed off a bit on it’s contentious ban on new oil and gas exploration, which was applauded by environmentalists and slammed by Taranaki business interests in particular. Is has been pointed out that it could lead to higher carbon emissions as more alternatives were sourced from overseas.

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff):  Symbolic backdown undermines Government’s untidy oil move

After all the hype, the Government’s troubled path to ending new oil exploration has a bizarre sting in the tail: a bit of a backdown.

In the hours before she announced a law change to give effect to decisions announced in April, which mean no new offshore permits, Energy Minister Megan Woods met with the industry to deliver a piece of good news.

Oil explorers facing deadlines on their permits to either commit to exploration wells or relinquish the permits – referred to as “drill or drop” – are likely to be given more breathing space.

It seems the deadline to drill could be pushed back for years, although Woods has not given details other than that she will consider giving more time on a case-by-case basis.

In terms of concessions, it looks like no big deal, given the Government is changing the legislation that frames the sector. No-one in the industry will celebrate this as a victory, given the overall impact of the moves by the Government.

But it seems like Woods is trying to head off a potentially major “what if?” headache.

As it stands, the Barque prospect off the coast of Oamaru will be lost forever if New Zealand Oil and Gas (NZOG) does not find partners willing to commit to the major cost of drilling, by early 2019.

Although the odds of success are put at only one in five, NZOG has claimed that, if successful, Barque could transform New Zealand’s energy outlook, with thousands of jobs and tens of billions of revenue.

Seen this way, Woods’ gesture to the industry looks like a major contradiction of the Government’s plan, to set New Zealand on a renewable future.

Reality wins over idealism?

Greens are not happy.

Both Greenpeace and the Green Party are furious, with the Government’s partners warning it waters down the moves made so far.

Given where we have come from, the latest move should be no surprise.

On a sunny day in March, Ardern walked down the steps of Parliament to greet Greenpeace activists, delivering a major shock that the Government was “actively considering” their call to end oil exploration. Although her speech was more symbol than substance, it was clear major plans were afoot.

As it turned out, the Government was not really considering anything, and it certainly did not want much in the way of advice.

Less than a month later, Ardern would lead a group of ministers into the Beehive theatrette to announce the decision, giving the impression that ministers had considered the matter.

In fact, all that had happened was that the leaders of Labour, NZ First and the Greens had reached a deal. Cabinet had no input in the decision.

Officials were so furious at being sidelined from the decision that it was leaked, spoiling Ardern’s plan for a dramatic announcement at Victoria University.

Greenpeace and the Green Party furious. Officials furious. Officials furious. It looks like this was rushed and bungled.

It should be remembered that this advice comes from bureaucrats who have not only been ignored in the actual decision-making, they are giving advice on a decision that could kill the sector they work in.

Seizing on the fact that – as in all long-term forecasting – the report on the oil exploration decision outlines a vast range of possibilities of the cost (from a few hundred million to more than $50 billion), Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters dismissed it as a “very, very bad piece of analytical work”.

It is fair to say that the official advice offers no accurate guide as to what the fiscal cost of the decision would be.

Given that we do not know the future for carbon prices, oil prices or interest rates, there is no way we could possibly know what that cost would be, a fact which seems lost on Peters.

What we do know is that there will be a cost, and it will likely be significant.

We also know that the way it was handled has had a significant impact on investor confidence in New Zealand, which seems to have dawned on the Government only months later.

It is also likely to have an impact on energy prices, both from the cost of gas to households and its impact on future electricity prices.

Woods said on Monday that, even with the benefit of hindsight and advice, she would still push for exactly the same decision.

Of course, she would say that. But it seems the Government has decided to breathe a little more life into oil exploration, just in case.

Green Party: Minister must not water down oil and gas decision

Green Party: Minister Woods must not water down decision to ban offshore oil and gas exploration

The Green Party does not support Labour Party Minister Woods allowing mining companies with existing offshore oil and gas exploration permits more time to consider if they will drill.

“Mining companies with existing licenses for drilling have a time limit on when they can explore. If they reach the time limit, their permits are handed back to the Crown”, Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes said today.

They shouldn’t be offered special treatment to extend or waive that time limit.

“I struggle to see the point in banning offshore exploration for oil and gas if existing companies with huge blocks can hold off from exploring until way later down the track.

“New Zealand took an incredibly exciting and brave step for people and planet when we decided to ban future offshore oil and gas exploration.

“It has been congratulated world-wide and New Zealanders are proud of the decision, let’s not water it down.

“I am urging her to reconsider this proposal”.

Remember Gareth Hughes? I’m not sure how much clout he has. He is till an MP but is far from prominent.

 

Party leaders made oil and gas decisions, not Cabinet

Theoretically in New Zealand’s democratic system the Cabinet of the day makes Government decisions. But when governing arrangements are made before the Cabinet has been formed decisions are effectively made by party leaders and whoever is a part of their decision making processes.

It is being reported this is what happened with the decision to end the issuing of oil and gas exploration permits, but that was not a specific coalition or confidence and supply agreement. Cabinet was not involved in the decision anyway.

Stuff: No Cabinet paper written, no Cabinet decision made, in “political decision” to ban new oil exploration

Cabinet has made no decision on ending oil exploration, documents being released today will show, with April’s announcement made on the basis of a political agreement between the coalition parties.

On April 12, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern led a group of ministerial colleagues into the Beehive theatrette to confirm news that the Government had decided it would offer no new offshore permits for oil and gas exploration, with onshore permits offered in Taranaki for as little as three years.

Although the news was delivered by ministers affected by the decision and in a forum usually used to discuss decisions made by Cabinet, politicians made the decision in their roles as party leaders.

Today the Government will release a series of documents generated in the making of the oil and gas exploration decision, but it has already confirmed to Stuff that no Cabinet paper was created and that Cabinet has not voted on the matter.

“There was no Cabinet decision,” a spokesman for Energy Minister Megan Woods said.

“The decision not to offer future offshore oil and gas exploration permits was made between the three coalition parties, and the Minister [Woods] was simply notifying Cabinet of that decision as well as noting that future cabinet decisions would be required to implement that decision.”

The spokesman added that there was no requirement for Cabinet to make a decision, but a Cabinet paper would be developed on implementing the decision.

“Officials are currently drafting advice on implementing the offshore decision and alongside this work, we’ve also begun discussions with industry about protecting rights of existing permit holders.”

There has been justified criticism of making a decision that potentially could have a major impact before spending time considering and deciding how it might be implemented.

In a statement, Ardern defended the handling of the decision, but said it was not how most decisions would be made.

“The decision on future oil and gas block offers was a political decision made by the government parties. It was consulted on and agreed between the parties and taken to Cabinet for confirmation,” a spokesman for Ardern said.

“This is a normal decision making process when it comes to coalition wide matters, but does tend to be the exception rather than the rule.”

So some major decisions are made by three party leaders and their negotiating teams, with Cabinet expected to just ‘confirm’ it – that sounds like rubber stamping.

In this case it seems that the Minister of Energy, Megan Woods, was instructed on decisions made outside her Ministry.

A spokesman for Ardern said the exploration permit announcement was usually made around the time of the oil industry summit and “had nothing to do with the Prime Minister’s trip to Europe”.

Just a lucky coincidence for Ardern to be able to take the decision with her on her European trip.

Perhaps big decisions being made by Government party leaders is a practical reality of our form of MMP democracy, but it does have risks of diktat be a self selected few.

This is a particular risk when a new Government is formed, and the checks and balances seem alarmingly limited.

It is unlikely a newly appointed Minister would feel free to speak up against an imposed decision.

In the case of the oil and gas decision, going by the obvious discomfort shown by Shane Jones at the announcement, the cessation of issuing of exploration permits seems to have been a decision made by two party leaders and imposed on the other party in Government with just a whimper in protest.