NZ govt planning 'long transition' away from fossil fuels, Minister tells oil conference
By Pattrick Smellie
March 27 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand's government expects moving away from using fossil fuels will take several decades
so the economy and affected industries have time to adjust, the Minister of Energy, Megan Woods, told the country's main
annual oil and gas conference in Wellington.
Speaking to an audience that required police intervention to run a gauntlet of protesters outside the capital's TSB
Events Centre, Woods's speech was anxiously awaited after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last week announced the
government is considering discontinuing the previous government's annual Block Offer programme, which invites bids for
new onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration.
Woods quickly dispelled any hopes a decision on Block Offers was imminent, saying it was weeks away, but stressed the
government was committed to a "a long term transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy".
"These are 10 and 20 and 30-year timelines we are talking about," she said. No existing oil and gas production permits
would be affected, with some forecast to continue production until 2046.
Instead, the government was determined to lay out a plan for "just transition" to an economy with net zero carbon
emissions by 2050, achieved in way that did not repeat the socially and economically wrenching economic reforms of the
1980s Labour government.
"I will not be part of a government that allows something like that to happen again. I don’t want New Zealand to be the
country that rips the rug out from under businesses, communities and individuals because we didn’t have a plan to deal
with the future.
"If we have the courage to think long term now we can avoid that.
"I don’t want to see an abrupt transition that leaves industries stagnant, communities without a future and individuals
without hope. What I want to see is a clear, transparent and well-managed pathway to a new economy", and "support
communities that currently rely on fossil fuel extraction", Woods said.
Woods also acknowledged the oil and gas industry's acceptance that the global economy will move away from fossil fuel
dependence in coming decades, and the role that natural gas would continue to play for years to come in guaranteeing a
secure supply of electricity.
"No one is talking about shutting off our supply of fuels we need to keep our country and economy running strongly," she
said. "This government is well aware of the huge importance of peaking to ensure security of electricity supply.
"We know we have 10 years or so of natural gas consented for drilling, and potentially many more years that could be
discovered under existing exploration permits."
Planning now had to include identifying new industries and workforce planning, said Woods, who outlined a tri-partite
approach involving the government, industry, and trade unions, including "how to connect the transition to a low-carbon
future to the resurgence of our regions".
"Our job in the twenty-first century is to ensure that our industries and workforce currently employed in high-emission
industries are not consigned to the scrap heap as we respond to the shocks of unplanned and urgent economic upheaval."
Led by the soon-to-be-created Climate Commission, the government would lay out "a step-by-step plan to take us right
through until 2050", which would give the oil and gas industry the "certainty and stability" it said was paramount for
its own planning.