Picking up more awards than our top sporting teams at various world cups this year, the most recent Fossil of the Day award adds to the one we received last year [so that qualifies as a back-to-back embarrassment] and the same ignominious award dished out at the very first COP in 1999. There may have been other awards between those two dates, but I’m too mortified to have a look.
Silly sporting analogies aside, it is not a good look. Throw in the recent backward step on smoke-free legislation and it could be that the rest of the world sees us in a much dimmer gas-fired light than they did just a couple of weeks ago.
Greenpeace Aotearoa was not so kind in its their summation of recent events, including the government’s willingness to reopen oil and gas exploration. It said the Luxon-led Government’s “extreme” position on oil exploration puts New Zealand at risk of becoming a Pacific pariah.
It was not alone in its condemnation. Climate Action Network International presented the award in Dubai and asked whether New Zealand’s new Climate Change Minister, Simon Watts, didn’t hear the climate alarm bells ringing. That comment will almost certainly not have fallen on deaf ears.
Greenpeace is now promising to roll back the clock and resist any attempt to conduct oil exploration in our corner of the world. Greenpeace was at the forefront of nuclear protest in the South Pacific more than 50 years ago. The sailing skills and disruptive strategies learned then might be of good use again.
More than 100 countries – including Australia – have signed a pledge promising to treble world renewable energy use by 2030, but the New Zealand government is not among them. Pledges are all well and good, but actions speak much louder. We will not escape scrutiny in this regard, particularly from our neighbours in the Pacific Islands who face rising seawater levels.
The 2018 ban on offshore exploration was hard-won and positioned New Zealand as a global climate leader. We became associate members of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, a group of countries committed to bold action, in recognition of the ban. I assume our membership will be up for discussion very soon.
Somewhat fortuitously, not all the attention is on us.
The host, no less, of COP28 has cast doubt on whether eliminating fossil fuels would help limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, saying there is “no science” behind it. A more eye-widening comment would be hard to find.
Scientists say the remarks are “incredibly concerning” and “verging on climate denial”. I’m not sure why they bothered with the word verging.
“There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5degC,” said Sultan Al-Jaber, who is chief executive of United Arab Emirates state oil company ADNOC.
He also claimed that phasing out fossil fuels would “take the world back into caves.” He may soon have several offers to take him to said grottos.