Hon Dr Megan Woods
Minister of Energy and Resources
September 23, 2019
This letter is being written to urge you to not attend the New Zealand Petroleum Conference. The oil and gas industry have done all in their power to delay meaningful action to address the climate crisis – they have consistently put their profits above people and the planet.
Jacinda Ardern got elected prime minister of New Zealand after calling climate change her generation’s “nuclear free moment”. The only meeting the Minister should be having with the oil and gas industry is to discuss a just transition away from fossil fuels.
We feel that a governmental presence at this conference condones and encourages a reckless and irresponsible dependency on the petroleum sector. The government is not on track to meet its obligations and contribute fairly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meet the Paris Agreement commitments necessary to stay well below 2 degrees – and we know we have a narrow window to make the cuts needed.
Ardern shaped her climate change views on New Zealand’s proud stance as being nuclear free, a stance that did not come easily nor without condemnation and the threat of alienation, but David Lange did not talk about how dangerous nuclear weapons are and then attend a conference aboard a nuclear warship.
We recognise that the systematic changes required to meet our Paris obligations may generate an extraordinary sense of destabilisation in those who worry at the imminent prospect of renewable energy breaking out, but the character of the argument that New Zealand’s future prosperity depends on a minerals and petroleum sector is regrettable. Very simply, there is no moral case for continued exploration for fossil fuels. The undeniable scientific and economic facts pervert the suitability of holding a conference to “celebrate” an industry that threatens the well-being of all living things.
A report to Treasury in 2018 estimated that climate change-attributable extreme rainfall-related floods cost New Zealand around $120M and climate change-attributable economic losses associated with droughts cost New Zealand around $720M over a ten year period. These costs appear conservative in comparison to a May 2017 Ministry for the Environment report that estimated the economic cost of the 2012-13 drought alone to be $1.5 billion.
The financial cost of significant weather events in New Zealand the year that Jacinda Ardern called climate change our nuclear free moment was $240 million. It was so high that 2017 was named the most expensive year for weather since records began, and in 2018 Westpac advised that early action on climate change would save the country $30 billion by 2050.
So, the hosting, holding and attending of this exclusive, premier event exposes the greatest of all perversions: the belief that business-as-usual is necessary – when in fact, it is not. The key discussions need to be about stopping all extensions to current permits, timing the end of all exploration on- and off-shore and eliminating all extraction of fossil fuels as part of a just transition.
“Celebrating” an industry charged with accelerating climate breakdown subverts the best of intentions. The Prime Minister has said that ‘fossil fuels are not part of New Zealand’s future’. If the fossil fuel industry wishes to be a part of our future, they have the ability to fund and accelerate investment into alternative clean energy sources and support the labour force to retrain and begin new work. The voices of the communities and workers facing significant change as a result of ending our reliance on fossil fuel extraction should have been included as an important part of this conference.
Too often preparations are being made for survivable climate collapse with words like mitigation and adaptation. But what if you ignore those and wholeheartedly embrace the unthinkable and imagine the devastation which could result from the collapse of a stable climate.
Dr Woods, you have stated that you firmly believe that economic growth need not be at the expense of the environment, but do you equally believe that economic growth cannot occur if the climate collapses? Your statement infers an understanding that the environment does suffer from the relentless pursuit of economic growth, but you say that it doesn’t have to. We believe that a vibrant, healthy economy can only exist within a vibrant, healthy environment on a vibrant, healthy planet. The Petroleum Conference is a holdover from a previous era. It is time to move on. The conference should be disbanded.
The normality and regularity with which we use petroleum-based products makes it difficult to read all the signs, but essentially the New Zealand Petroleum Conference is a demonstration of how the fossil fuel industry has assumed a moral life of its own.
We implore the Minister of Energy and Resources and the New Zealand government to respectfully withdraw from its participation in and support of the New Zealand Petroleum Conference.
With awareness and conviction
Zella Downing – XR Queenstown Lakes
Anna Simmonds – XR Queenstown Lakes
Rosemary Penwarden – Oil Free Otago
Joanna Santa Barbara – Our Climate Declaration
Cindy Baxter – Coal Action Network Aotearoa
Rob Taylor – Auckland Coal Action
Melanie Vautier – Climate Safe Travel Institute
James Barber and Michelle Ducat – Oil Free Wellington
Catherine Cheung and Urs Signer – Climate Justice Taranaki
Torfrida Wainwright – 350 Christchurch
Environmental Justice Ōtepoti