Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
The new coalition government has picked up a dud award at an international climate change conference for its proposed plan to reopen oil and gas exploration.
The Fossil of the Day award has been handed out to New Zealand on day three of the United Nations Climate Change Conference by activists slating the new government’s policy on fossil fuels, claiming it was not the path to a liveable future.
Activist group Climate Action Network International said the new government seemed to have swerved off course despite the previous Labour-led government’s efforts to stop oil and gas exploration.
“Did New Zealand not read the road signs to COP28??? No U-turns on the way to a healthy planet.
“New Zealand had been saying all the right things, listening to indigenous voices, and championing a global phase-out of fossil fuels. But with a new government in the driver’s seat, they seem to have swerved off course and are undermining the indigenous people-led struggle by announcing plans to reopen Aotearoa waters to oil and gas exploration. In doing so, they have the dishonour of winning the first Fossil of the Day award at COP28.″
The group said new Climate Change Minister Simon Watts would be back-pedalling New Zealand’s legacy of climate leadership and undo the progress made between Māori and government relationships.
“We remember the decade-long campaign led by indigenous Māori communities who succeeded in achieving a ban on oil and gas exploration in New Zealand’s oceans.”
“Does Climate Change Minister Simon Watts not hear the climate alarm bells ringing? He may underestimate the devastating climate consequences of this decision but we, and their Pacific island neighbours in Palau, who slammed his intentions as ‘tragic’, certainly do not.”
The group called on the Government to consider the interests of neighbouring countries who were at an immediate risk of sea level rise and fossil fuel companies.
“Aotearoa New Zealand, as tangata moana (ocean people), has a responsibility to make sure decisions are in the best interests of their neighbours and should not ignore the calls from those at immediate risk of sea level rise to line the pockets of fossil fuel companies. We will not let you silence indigenous voices. Let’s be clear, expect criticism; we have no time to waste in securing a liveable future,” the group warned.
Former climate change minister James Shaw is in Dubai with new minister Simon Watts expected to join him shortly.
The previous Labour government has launched a petition to save the ban on oil and gas exploration saying, “the new Government’s plan to expand oil and gas exploration is as dangerous as it is unscientific”.