Greenpeace is calling on the new Government to discount gas expansion in the future of New Zealand’s energy make up following statements by Regional Development Minister, Shane Jones.
Yesterday Jones announced the appointment of former head of NZ Oil & Gas, Rodger Findlay, as chairman of an advisory panel to the Government’s $1 billion a year Regional Development Fund.
Jones met the ire of Green Ministers over selecting someone with such a long history in fossil fuels. When defending the decision, Jones stated he believes gas will be an important part of New Zealand’s journey to meet climate change obligations.
Greenpeace climate campaigner, Amanda Larsson, says it’s a concern that Government Ministers appear to be adopting the oil industry’s “flawed” position that gas is a way to transition to clean energy.
“We can replace all fossil fuels with renewable energy and we have a responsibility to do so urgently if we want to avoid extremely dangerous climate change,” she says.
“The idea that we should replace coal with gas is a convenient narrative for the oil and gas industry, which is struggling to justify its existence in the face of booming support for clean energy and growing public opposition to fossil fuels.
“In the real world, renewable energy like solar, wind, and storage are the smartest options. We have the technology, and it will save us money and create thousands of jobs. We don’t need to rely on dirty energy like gas or coal.”
Greenpeace has called on the Government to use the Regional Development Fund to back up its promises of a just transition to clean energy.
Larsson says the fund provides a prime opportunity for the Government to “walk the talk” on New Zealand’s transition to 100% renewable energy.
“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has consistently said that it is a Government priority to ensure a just transition for those communities and workers currently reliant on the fossil fuel industry,” she says.
“If the Government really is committed to creating a clean energy economy, then its top priority should be planning and funding a transition away from dependence on oil, gas, and coal.
“With $1 billion a year set aside for regional development, now is exactly the moment to start investing in good jobs and sustainable economic development opportunities for the regions that are most dependent on fossil fuels.”
Larsson says this means focusing on fossil-fuel dependent areas such as Taranaki, the West Coast, and Huntly, to ensure those communities are fully supported with finding alternative opportunities in sustainable industries.
A clean energy economy would create new jobs in the installation and maintenance of solar panels, the construction of geothermal and wind power plants, energy efficiency retrofits for homes and business, as well as the construction of a better rail network.
Research and modelling commissioned by Greenpeace found that the clean energy industry could create 25,000 new jobs in New Zealand.
“There are enormous opportunities for New Zealanders in the booming clean energy industry. But it will take Government leadership to make them a reality,” Larsson says.
She emphasised that the transition of our society away from fossil fuels towards greater clean energy use must mean winding down existing fossil fuel industries, including the gas industry.