Text of Megan Woods’s speech recently delivered to the Petroleum Conference from Scoop.
As a politician, you never want to start by disappointing your audience, but in situations like this I’ve always found it’s best to be upfront. I have no intention to keep you on the edges of your seats in a “will she or won’t she” pantomime. It’s not my style.
So, I won’t be announcing Block Offer 2018 today.
As the Prime Minister has said, the Government is actively considering this issue, and we’ll have an announcement in the coming weeks.
I know this is an issue everyone here is incredibly interested in, so while I can’t give you an announcement, I do want to spend time today and tell you as plainly as I can the role this Government sees for our upstream energy sector, and I do want to give you an idea of the principles and framework we will bring to decisions about any future exploration permits.
I know that the investment decisions and the planning for projects that people in this room make have enormous lead times and involve huge amounts of money. You have told me that what you value most is certainty and predictability.
So today I want to lay out where we come from when we make decisions like this, the approach we will be taking, and the analysis we bring to bear on these issues.
Our approach in this area comes from the type of Government we want to be.
One that is responsible and manages change well, but that does not shy away from making tough calls and grappling with big issues.
One that will put the well-being and living standards of New Zealanders at the core of everything we do.
We see the mission of our time in office as rebuilding much of the social and economic infrastructure of our country that has not been invested in enough over the last nine years.
And we see it as our mission to face up to the major coming challenges that have not been well addressed.
We stand for transformational change – moving to an economy that is sustainable, inclusive and productive.
That is this Government’s overriding economic aim.
We aim to shape an economy where we work smarter, make better use of our resources, ensure everyone who wants to work can work, and ensure that the benefits of growth are spread across society
And we aim to shape an economy that is sustainable, that is not prone to major shocks, and that meets our obligations to our Paris commitments.
And that means having a plan to responsibly transition towards a low carbon economy.
Our goals in this area are ambitious and plainly stated.
A carbon neutral economy by 2050.
100% renewable electricity, in a normal hydrological year, by 2035.
These targets commit us to a long term transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy.
Now, I am keenly aware that the need for this transition is not new to anyone in this room.
I know that the old stereotypes of the energy sector are simply not true today and that industry itself is well aware that the days of complete reliance on fossil fuels are over.
And I want to congratulate your sector on the steps you are taking to support this transition.
You understand the need and you are taking action.
That’s why the IEA reports that globally in 2017, investment in electricity surpassed investment in oil and gas for the first time ever.
It’s why the World Bank has announced it will no longer finance upstream oil and gas extraction after 2019.
It’s why Statoil, for example has introduced an internal price on carbon for all its projects and has adopted a climate assessment and is even changing its name to Equinor, to reflect the changing nature of its business.
It’s why by 2035 Shell aims to have achieved a 20% reduction in the carbon footprint of the energy it sells, and 50% reduction by 2050.
It’s why the industry has come together to invest in the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, which will deliver one billion dollars’ worth of research into new projects initiatives and technological solutions to reduce carbon emissions.
So I acknowledge that the need for a transition is widely understood in this industry and I congratulate you on the steps you have taken to support it.
And likewise, the need for a transition is now gaining bipartisan political support.
I acknowledge the new leader of the opposition said in an interview on March the 3rd of this year that he acknowledges the need for a transition.
So it is widely agreed that this transition needs to happen.
The question is what kind of transition we will have, and how it will impact the well-being of our people, our businesses, our economy and our environment.
Those of you who have heard me speak before will know I am passionate believer in the idea of a just, well-managed transition.
I don’t want to see an abrupt transition that leaves industries stagnant, communities without a future and individuals without hope.
What I want to see is a clear, transparent and well managed pathway to a new economy.
And that means we must develop a clear plan, that will allow for informed investment decisions to be made and that will support communities that currently rely on fossil fuel extraction.
In our Government we know that this transition cannot happen suddenly.
But we know that to quote a famous New Zealander, it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.
And that means we need to be preparing now.
In our view there are two choices, bury our head in the sand and assume the transition will take care of itself, or be responsible and make plans now for our future.
No one is talking about making abrupt, jarring change in our economy and by planning now, that is what we can avoid.
Here in this country, we’ve learned all too well how much damage changes like that can do.
Like our Prime Minister, I grew up in the 1980s a time of dislocating social and economic change.
I watched people in the community where I grew up lose jobs that had supported our community for decades.
I watched people lose their jobs, their hope, and their dignity.
I watched as families were displaced and communities were gutted.
I will not be part of a Government that allows something like that to happen again.
I don’t want New Zealand to be the country that rips the rug out from under businesses, communities and individuals because we didn’t have a plan to deal with the future.
If we have the courage to think long term now we can avoid that.
If we raise our eyes and get ahead of the curve with a long term plan, we can ensure a better future.
And New Zealander’s get this.
They want leaders who think beyond the 3 year election cycle and plan for the long term.
And let’s be clear, we’ve got the time to get this right.
These are ten and twenty and thirty year timelines we are talking about.
In order to avoid shocks and disruptions as we undergo these structural adjustments, it is imperative that we have robust across-government transition planning that is well connected to industry and workforce.
This planning must address the challenges posed by a changing climate and create new opportunities for our businesses and industry – and importantly, secure the jobs of the future.
We’ve already said that region by region our Government will be drawing up robust economic development plans. Minister Jones and his Provincial Growth Fund will once again deliver jobs to our regions.
Alongside this work, we need to be thinking about how to connect the transition to a low carbon future to the resurgence of our regions.
We also need to be connecting the dots to workforce planning.
We need to be thinking about the qualifications and skills this economic transformation will require.
It is this kind of joined up thinking from a progressive and future-focused government that will ensure that we minimise the shocks and ensure a “just transition” to a low-carbon economy.
As a Labour Minister of Energy and Resources, this really matters to me.
For over a century a stable job with decent pay and conditions has been the guiding principle of the labour mission.
Our job in the twenty-first century is to ensure that our industries and workforce currently employed in high-emission industries are not consigned to the scrap heap as we respond to the shocks of unplanned and urgent economic upheaval.
Instead, it means starting immediately to put in place across-government transition planning to build a stronger, fairer and more sustainable economy.
That’s why I have asked MBIE to begin this important transition planning role.
We will be having conversations across Government.
We’ll be talking about how Energy and Resources decisions link up with Regional Economic Development and the Provincial Growth Fund.
How these in turn link with education decisions and the need for workforce planning.
And then how all of this fits with investment in innovation.
I am aware that you want to be part of this conversation and I want you to be a part of this planning.
The work that we undertake will be tripartite.
We will bring industry, the workforce and government together to develop a plan.
Over the coming months we will be asking you to join us and it is my sincere hope that as an industry you take up this offer.
It will be against this backdrop of transitions planning, that we make our decisions around future block offers.
There are several points I want to make crystal clear today.
One, no one is suggesting changing any existing permit or project.
Two, we are not talking about losing jobs or revenue that already exist or investments which have already been planned or committed to.
Three, no one is talking about shutting off our supply of fuels we need to keep our country and economy running strongly.
This Government is well aware of the huge importance of peaking to ensure security of electricity supply.
That’s why our commitment around the pathway to 100% renewable energy by 2035 contains the phrase in a normal hydrological year.
And we know we have ten years or so of natural gas consented for drilling, and potentially many more years that could be discovered under existing exploration permits. Some of these permits run as late as 2046.
They are not under threat.
Fourth, I want to make clear that we will be providing a step by step plan to take us right through until 2050.
This work will be led by an Independent Climate Commission, who will develop carbon budgets planning us right through to 2050.
This will deliver the certainty and stability of policy that are vital for the industry.
I note that the UK has made real strides in this area through strong bi-partisan co-operation.
Here in New Zealand, we should be aiming for a multi-party approach.
Because the people on the ICC won’t be politicians or work to a political timetable.
They’ll be experts tasked with developing a long term economic plan that moves us away from carbon emissions while also protecting the security of our energy supply and ensuring we have access to the energy we need as a country.
And as I have said our Government will take action to support communities that currently rely on fuels that are being phased out.
Our Government’s Provincial Growth Fund and Green Investment Fund will invest billions of dollars in local infrastructure and clean energy projects in areas like this.
We’ll work alongside local mayors, businesses, unions, economic development agencies and councils to identify the projects with the best business cases and consult the local community every step of the way.
And we’ll do more to support innovation to create new jobs in new industries.
That’s why our Government will be introducing a research and development tax incentive, so that companies can claim money back on every dollar they spend on R and D.
It’s why we will lift New Zealand’s spending on R and D to 2% of GDP, to bring us in line with the OECD.
This will mean New Zealand can transition to a cleaner economy, protect our planet while still providing high paying jobs that support families.
That’s what we can achieve if we have a plan.
And I want to emphasise today that once we have our carbon budgets and our clear path forward, our Government will consult and work with industry on every step we take along this path to transition.
We are a Government that listens, then acts. That consults widely, thinks through issues deeply and seeks to forge consensus on how we can take New Zealand forward together.
We want to work with you to make this a transition that works for everyone.
Government cannot do it alone.
There is no doubt in my mind that climate change will drive the most significant economic transformation in modern history.
The transition to a low-carbon or a net-zero carbon economy will be as transformational as the industrial revolution was to the societies and economies in the nineteenth century.
We need to work with industry, with businesses, with community groups and with individuals around the country to ensure this transition protects jobs, supports communities, and leads us to a better, fairer future.
That’s what we can deliver together and I look forward to working with all of you to make it happen.