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November 10, 2021updated 11 Nov 2021 3:31pm

New Zealand students sue minister over oil and gas licenses

New Zealand group Students for Climate Solutions has served the energy and resources minister with a lawsuit over oil and gas licenses.

By Scarlett Evans

A group of students from New Zealand has served Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods with a lawsuit condemning the approval of new oil and gas exploration licenses.

The students, who have formed the group Students for Climate Solutions, say that the new licenses are not in keeping with the country’s overall climate mitigation strategy and that Woods “erred in law” by granting oil and gas permits to Greymouth Gas Turangi and Riverside Energy.

“For so long, we have had indisputable science that extracting fossil fuels needs to stop now … The permits would allow drilling for another 10 years. That is just completely unreasonable,” said the group’s co-founder, Phoebe Nikolaou.

While the New Zealand Government banned further offshore oil and gas exploration in 2018, it still allows for onshore exploration, with the latest permits approved in June this year for the Taranaki onshore site.

According to Woods, the licensing marks the fulfillment of a deal made at the time when offshore exploration was banned, and she indicated further licenses may be expected.

The students’ lawsuit states that not only do the licenses go against the country’s own net-zero pledge, but it is also at odds with the IEA’s Net Zero report, released earlier this year, which pitches a moratorium on further oil and gas sites as the primary step in limiting rising global temperatures.

“There is no need for investment in new fossil fuel supply in our net-zero pathway,” the report reads.

The students’ lawsuit marks the second time this year that the nation’s government has been taken to court for major judicial review over a perceived failure to stay true to its climate targets.

The previous time was in July this year, when a group of lawyers sued the Climate Change Commission for a climate review it submitted to the government, in which it offered advice to help curb carbon emissions. The group of lawyers said the advice contained “substantial mathematical errors” – applying carbon reduction targets from 2010 levels to the country’s gross emissions (rather than its net emissions).

The status of this suit is still pending.

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