Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Climate Change: NZPAM takes the piss

Last month, the Labour government outraged Aotearoa by granting two new fossil fuel exploration permits in Taranaki. In a context where the planet is literally on fire and even the International Energy Agency is saying "no more fossil fuels", it seemed like an extraordinarily stupid decision, and utterly inconsistent with the government's proclaimed climate change goals. So did NZPAM even consider them? I asked, and according to documents released under the OIA, they did. Weirdly, they believed allowing more fossil fuel exploration was consistent with Aotearoa's net zero by 2050 target. But their reasons for this are... questionable:

Officials consider that the grant of a petroleum exploration permit in response to this Bid is not inconsistent with New Zealand’s 2050 target, for the following reasons:

a) The 2050 target is a domestic target. However, petroleum produced from petroleum mining permits in New Zealand is processed and/or combusted both in New Zealand and offshore. Oil is refined in Australia or Singapore. Approximately half of the gas produced is converted by Methanex to methanol (in New Zealand), then exported and used for petrochemicals. Other gas is used by Balance (in New Zealand) to produce fertiliser for both domestic use and export. Other gas is used domestically for electricity and heat generation.

b) The 2050 target relates to net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As such, the 2050 target does not relate directly to gross GHG emissions, and it does not prohibit the use of petroleum as an energy source or as industrial feedstock (e.g. gas use by Methanex and Balance). The CCRA provides a legal framework which manages New Zealand’s GHG emissions, including those from the petroleum sector.

c) The 2050 target does not require an immediate cessation of nonrenewable energy use. The CCC’s recommendation is that 50% of all energy consumed should from renewable sources by 31 December 2035 in order to meet the 2050 target. As such, the continuing production of energy from non-renewable resources in the near and medium term (during the 10 year term of the proposed permit and thereafter) is not inconsistent with the CCC’s advice or the 2050 target.

[Emphasis added]

This is simply taking the piss. The first point ignores the fact that fossil fuels = emissions, where-ever it is processed. The second is utterly ridiculous, a semantic game aimed at hiding the fact that this will increase emissions. The third simply misses the point. But its exactly the sort of nonsense you'd expect from a captive agency which refuses to accept that the world has changed and that the industry they exist to regulate (and therefore the agency itself) does not have a future.

So why is their Minister letting them get away with this bullshit? Sadly, it seems they're part of the problem. The advice goes on to say that:

The Minister considers that, within the context and mandate of the [Crown Minerals] Act, “the benefit of New Zealand” is best achieved by increasing New Zealand’s economic wealth through maximising the economic recovery of New Zealand’s petroleum resources.
I wonder of the residents of Westport, which got hit by a record flood less than a month after the Minister made this decision, would agree?

We need to end fossil fuels, for our own survival. And the first step to doing that is by prohibiting the grant of any new exploration and mining permits for fossil fuels. There's a first stab at legislation to do that here. The question is whether the Labour government will pass something like this, or whether we'll have to de-elect them in favour of a government which will.