SYDNEY – New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday a ban on all new offshore oil exploration, describing her decision as a transition towards a zero-carbon economy.
“Transitions have to start somewhere and unless we make decisions today that will essentially take effect in 30 or more years time, we run the risk of acting too late and causing abrupt shocks to communities and our country,” Ardern said Thursday during a press conference in Wellington.
The ban is applied with immediate effect to only new offshore oil exploration permits, and will not affect existing permits and onshore drilling, local newspaper New Zealand Herald reported.
The transition “must start somewhere,” said the prime minister, who vowed to push for environmental measures when she won the elections last September, adding that the government is “taking an important step to address climate change and create a clean, green and sustainable future for New Zealand.”
Ardern also assured that her policy will not lead to job losses in the country’s oil industry, which currently employs at least 11,000 workers and generates about $1.8 billion per year.
“We’re striking the right balance for New Zealand – we’re protecting existing industry and protecting future generations from climate change,” she said.
Opposition leader Simon Bridges said that the measure “doesn’t make any environmental sense,” and called it “a wrecking ball” for the country’s regional economy.
Greenpeace, a non-governmental environmental organization, praised Ardern’s move in a statement, saying this was a “historic moment” for the country and “a huge win for our climate and people power.”