Pacific civil society is deeply concerned with the recent remarks made by New Zealand National Party’s foreign affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee, in response to Vanuatu’s Climate Change Minister Ralph Regenvanu’s calls to the incoming New Zealand government not to reverse the ban on offshore oil and gas exploration.

At a time when the Pacific is grappling with the region’s single greatest security threat – climate change, intensifying fossil fuel dependency not only undermines collective efforts to build a sustainable future but also sends the wrong market signals whilst neglecting the broader environmental and social ramifications that will be caused by continued fossil fuel extraction and reliance.

Brownlee’s endorsement of gas as a transition fuel, alongside the proposal to reinstate offshore oil and gas exploration in New Zealand, is deeply alarming.

Lavetanalagi Seru, Regional Coordinator for the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN) says; “This isn’t the time to be exploring and expanding the extraction of fossil fuels, including gas. Every single report from the IPCC and the UN have called for immediate, deep and radical emission reductions, and for New Zealand to backtrack on this, spells climate disasters of unimaginable proportions for our Pacific climate frontline communities, and elsewhere across the world.”

“Earlier this year, six Pacific Islands countries made a political commitment to phase out fossil fuels, when they collectively issued the Port Vila Call for a Just Transition towards a Fossil Fuel Free Pacific. It is possible to transition our economies, and this requires political will and commitment, that signals the market to make it possible,” he said.

The recent global stocktake has also laid bare the need for an immediate course correction. At this crucial juncture, New Zealand ought to be actively and urgently reducing its reliance on fossil fuels and accelerating a just and equitable transition to clean energy, capitalising on its underutilised renewable energy capacity as a means of weaning itself off its fossil fuel addiction.

The Pacific region has made it abundantly clear: we want a future free of fossil fuels. And this week we join Pacific Island countries who are calling for a fossil fuel-free Pacific and urge New Zealand and Australia to step up and commit to helping us get there.

“We need to see that New Zealand, under its new Government, will stand with the Pacific – not with the fossil fuel industry,” said Seru.

“Brownlee says New Zealand will meet its obligations – but fossil fuel expansion is not compatible with the 1.5-degree pathway.”

The Pacific, and indeed the world, are watching New Zealand. The nation cannot proceed thinking its actions might go unnoticed and without accountability. Aligning with the Paris Agreement and the 1.5-degree target is a collective global responsibility that transcends domestic policies.

This story was originally published at PICAN on 09 November 2023, reposted via PACNEWS.

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