Greenpeace says the Government’s announcement on the formalisation of a Climate Commission is a positive step, but expanding the fossil fuel industry by issuing new fossil fuel permits would undermine the Commission before it even gets started.

In a post-Cabinet briefing today, Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and Climate Change Minister, James Shaw, outlined the process and timeline around Labour’s election promise of a Climate Commission and Zero Carbon Act.

The Government will start a public consultation phase in May 2018, with a Zero Carbon Bill introduced to in Parliament by next October. While the Commission is being set up, an Interim Climate Change Committee will be established.

Greenpeace climate campaigner, Kate Simcock, says the move is the first climate change-related action New Zealand Parliament has seen over the past decade.

“It’s good to see that the new Labour Government is putting climate change action into legislation,” she says.

“However, the most immediate climate action this Government needs to take is to stop the expansion of the fossil fuel industry by stopping issuing new permits. Any new permits for oil, gas or coal exploration or mining undermines the job of the new Commission.

“It makes no sense to outline legislation and a Commission to transform New Zealand into net carbon zero by 2050, and then issue new oil and gas exploration permits which could be spewing forth carbon pollution for decades to come.

“The science is clear. We can’t afford to burn most of the fossil fuels we have already discovered. It is incompatible with tackling climate change to look for more.

“We agree that a just transition for oil, gas and coal workers is required, but that means winding down those industries rather than expanding them. It is extremely concerning that the Government’s rhetoric about ‘just transitions’ appears to justify opening new mines and issuing new permits for drilling and fracking.

“Let’s be clear – this would be an expansion of the industry, and not a just transition.

“A just transition should mean massive investment in and support for clean energy strategies, which can create tens of thousands of jobs and dramatically reduce our climate pollution.

“If Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern really believes that climate change is our nuclear free moment, then her Government must be bold and brave and take a stand against one of the most powerful industries in the world for the sake of ours and future generations.

“We did it before in 1985 when we sent the nuclear ships back, despite huge pressure from the powerful US Military. Now is our moment to do it again.”