The well-publicised interview by Energy & Resources Minister Dr Megan Woods had some positive words on the future of gas for energy use, but her comments on coal have been questioned by National Party spokesman on climate issues Todd Muller.
He told Fairfax Media Dr Woods claimed there was no work or plans on banning new coal permits yet, but this was despite Climate Change Minister and Green Party leader James Shaw having reportedly signed New Zealand up to phasing out coal from power generation by 2030.
Muller claimed that shortly after formation of the new Government Shaw headed to Germany where he told the COP23 Conference that New Zealand intends to become a leader in the global fight against climate change.
While there he reportedly signed NZ up to the international Powering Past Coal alliance, which is committed to phasing out the use of coal for electricity generation.
Muller said the alliance is led by Canada and the UK but Australia and some of the world's biggest coal users like China, India, the United States, Germany and Russia, didn't sign.
On Channel One’s Q+A programme yesterday Dr Woods said no work had been done by the Government on banning coal. “We have made no announcements about ending coal, and we certainly haven't done any work,” she said.
Muller said Woods' comments were “incredulous.”
“It's absolutely incredulous is what it is and for her to come out and say nothing's been done when the other part of that Government is proactively, and with some fanfare, signing up to a commitment pre-Christmas suggests she doesn't know what the other half's doing or she's not being straight with New Zealand.”
According to Muller, James Shaw reportedly said at COP23: “We know that the future of our electricity system is in renewables, not coal, so I was delighted we could recognise that formally at this important international meeting”
Fairfax said that Todd Muller, who used to be a Fonterra executive and attended the COP23 conference with Shaw, said there was a complete disconnect between the Government's policy and the ability of businesses to deliver on it.
Woods said on Q+A that Fonterra wanted to be carbon neutral by 2050 and that they're “going to move away from using coal” and that Fonterra was always looking to transition away from coal to gas.
However Muller said to replace “capital assets of the size of Fonterra's you're looking at needing 40 or 50 year life spans", for which banning of oil and gas exploration permits won’t allow.