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New Zealand Ends New Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration

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French Pass, Marlborough, New Zealand. Thomas / Flickr / Public Domain

Incredible news in New Zealand, as it has banned new permits for offshore oil and gas exploration in efforts to tackle climate change.

The Crown Minerals (Petroleum) Amendment Act passed its third reading in Parliament on Wednesday with 63 votes in favor and 55 against, New Zealand Herald reported.


"New Zealanders want to see a future for their country where we take action on climate change" Minister of Energy and Resources Megan Woods said at the third reading. "Where we have a long-term economic plan for our country, where we have the courage to look beyond the three-year political cycle and plan for the next 10, 20, 30 and 40 years."

The bill will preserve existing exploration permits, an area that covers roughly 100,000 square kilometers, Woods noted.

"Those permit holders will have the same rights and privileges that they do before this legislation comes into force," she said.

Crown Minerals (Petroleum) Amendment Bill - Third Reading - Video 1 www.youtube.com

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's coalition government first set the ban's wheels in motion in April.

"The whole world is going in this direction," Ardern said then. "We all signed up to the Paris agreement that said we're moving towards carbon-neutrality, and now we need to act on it."

Ardern continued, "Nothing will change overnight. These existing permits have very long lead times. We'll be seeing oil and gas exploration for a number of years to come. And the jobs—the four-and-a-half thousand jobs in this industry—will continue too."

"But we're putting a line in the sand and saying, now it's our job to plan for the future," she said. "We will make sure we've got that transition plan in place, and what the future of clean, green, carbon-neutral New Zealand looks like."

The government has pledged to power the country's grid with 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 and aims to become carbon neutral by 2050.

Greenpeace celebrated the legislation's passing and said it had "overwhelming public support." A government committee for the environment received more than 7,000 submissions on the bill, with around 85 percent in support of it or saying that it did not go far enough to tackle climate change, the organization said.

"Today we have passed an incredibly important law for the global climate. This law means that around four million square kilometers of the Earth's surface is now off limits to oil and gas companies, and any deposits under our deep seas will stay in the ground where they belong," Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Kate Simcock said in a press release.

"The science is very clear—we only have 10 years to halve our use of oil, gas, and coal or face the displacement of millions of people, catastrophic sea level rise, more extreme weather, and mass species extinction. That's going to mean massive change—not business as usual—and we need to be prepared to take bold steps like this to protect humanity and the planet," Simcock added.

The center-right National Party was opposed to the bill and pledged to reverse the ban if back in government. The Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand (PEPANZ) also spoke against the legislation.

"The people most affected by this decision haven't been listened to and now face real uncertainty," PEPANZ CEO Cameron Madgwick said in a press release. "We need natural gas as a transition fuel towards a lower carbon economy. Turning off the tap when we have nothing concrete to replace it with is dangerous and irresponsible."

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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.

Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.

SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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