On Wednesday evening, New Zealand’s Labour-led coalition government passed a controversial ban on future offshore oil and gas exploration anywhere in the country. Environmentalists were quick to cheer on the decision.
“This law means that around four million square kilometres of the earth’s surface is now off limits to oil and gas companies,” said Kate Simcock with Greenpeace. “And any deposits under our deep seas will stay in the ground where they belong.”
Government officials are also pleased with the ban on offshore oil and gas exploration. James Shaw, New Zealand’s Climate Change Minister urged parliament to pass the bill and begin the process of transitioning away from business-as-usual fossil fuel use.
But of course, not everyone is pleased. The oil and gas industry lobbied hard against the decision, saying that it threatened the jobs of thousands of New Zealanders. Already, New Zealand’s National Party has vowed to reverse the ban if they assume power again.
The law does not impact any existing fossil fuel infrastructure in New Zealand’s coastal waters. There are currently 31 exploration permits active, 22 of them being offshore.
“This bill will not end oil and gas exploration overnight, nor will it halt existing production,” Megan Woods, New Zealand’s Energy Minister said after the bill passed.
Some government officials are concerned that the ban will only worsen the nation’s carbon footprint, arguing that a lack of local fossil fuel production would cause power plants to rely on dirty coal from China. Woods disagrees with the assessment, however, citing changes to the world’s energy grid toward renewable energy.