Energy Minister Megan Woods has announced a pause on all remaining oil and gas exploration until after the election, Marc Daalder reports

In a continuation of the Government’s staged phase-out of fossil fuel exploration in New Zealand, Energy Minister Megan Woods will pause the issuance of any new oil and gas permits until after next year’s election.

The Government stopped issuing new permits for offshore exploration and for onshore exploration outside of Taranaki in 2018. 

Three further block offers – permitting rounds – for prospecting in Taranaki have since been conducted, though the last one has yet to conclude. Last year, Woods issued two new onshore permits. A legal challenge of the decision by climate-concerned students was dismissed by the High Court in August.

The fate of the next onshore block offer has been uncertain for the better part of a year, amidst mounting evidence that the world cannot exploit most known fossil fuel reserves without blasting past the 1.5C and even 2C temperature goals.

Now Woods said she will pause any further block offers until the next Parliamentary term.

“I am not committing to any further block offers now. Decisions will be made early in the next Parliamentary term when there will be a better evidence base of future demand,” she said.

“This Government is committed to scaling up the renewable energy sector to phase out harmful fossil fuels. While fossil fuels remain essential today, the needs of tomorrow need to be properly understood to support future generations of New Zealanders.”

The minister revealed the decision in New Plymouth, alongside an announcement that the Government will consult on regulatory changes to better enable offshore wind energy

New fossil fuel exploration conflicts with 1.5C-compatible pathways from a range of influential bodies, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA). 

In its latest World Energy Outlook, the influential IEA reiterated that there can be no new fossil fuel projects if the world is to limit warming to 1.5C.

A subsequent report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development found all IPCC 1.5C pathways would be breached if there is any additional development of oil and gas fields. Even existing production must be curtailed by 65 percent over the next three decades.

Earlier this year, the IPCC found existing fossil fuel infrastructure, like power plants and industrial burners, must be mothballed early to stay within 1.5C. Planned power plants must be cancelled to stay below 2C of warming.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

Leave a comment