Describing Aotearoa’s (New Zealand’s) approach to climate action as “embarrassing,” a group of law students are taking the federal energy minister to court, arguing that the decision to grant two new onshore oil and gas exploration permits in June was illegal under the country’s Zero Carbon Act.
Just six months after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government declared a climate emergency, the Students for Climate Solutions from the Victoria University of Wellington filed a high court lawsuit against Megan Woods, arguing that her decision to issue the permits “is inconsistent with the government’s legal obligations under the country’s Zero Carbon Act and the Paris agreement,” reports The Guardian.
The suit also charges that Woods “failed to consider key facts like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent warnings about climate change’s severity.”
With the case now before the courts, Woods mostly declined comment, but she did try to make a plug for the onshore permits as “part of our world-leading ban on new offshore oil and gas exploration.”
Sketching the timeline of events, the Guardian says the New Zealand government banned new offshore oil and gas exploration in 2018, declared a climate emergency in December 2020, but has signalled its intent to issue further onshore permits in 2022, “which would allow oil and gas exploration up until 2032.”
Woods granted the two permits in the Taranaki region, an area that has long depended on oil and gas revenues, The Guardian writes, adding that “many in the area worry about the short-term economic consequences of shifting away from fossil fuels without significant government support.”