New Zealand is banning offshore drilling and gas exploration as part of its effort to combat climate change.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the move this week, noting that the country will allow current operations around some 50 existing permits to continue even as it stops issuing authorizations for new explorations.
If companies find oil and gas reserves in areas of their current permits, however, they may be allowed to drill.
Ardern said the decision is part of New Zealand’s plan to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to global climate change. The country is hoping to have its electricity system completely reliant on renewable energy sources by 2035.
“When it comes to climate change, our plan is clear. We are committed to the goal of becoming a net zero emissions economy by 2050,” Ardern said, according to The New York Times.
Energy advocates have criticized the decision, saying it will cost jobs and require the import of oil, raising prices. However, Ardern said the government is honoring all agreements with current permit holders, so current no jobs will be lost.
Despite the criticism, environmental groups have praised Ardern.
“New Zealand has taken an historic step and delivered a massive breakthrough for the climate, spurred on by the tens of thousands of people who have fought for years to protect our coasts from new oil and gas exploration,” Greenpeace New Zealand Executive Director Russel Norman said.
Ardern said it’s time to begin “looking to alternatives,” as the “whole world is going in this direction.”
“This is a big moment for us as a government, for New Zealand. Nothing will change overnight … but we’re putting a line in the sand and saying now it’s our job to plan for the future,” Ardern said. “If it’s inevitable, we have to face up to that inevitability and get on with deciding how we will make sure we’ve got that transition plan in place and what the future of clean, green carbon-neutral New Zealand looks like.”