''We have been a world leader on critical issues......., by being Nuclear Free, the first to support women to vote,'' Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

''Now we could be world leader in becoming Carbon Neutral. We owe this to the future generations''. 

New Zealand is halting all new offshore oil and gas explorations to become a global leader in the fight against climate change, the center-left government said Thursday.

But opponents accused it of ''economic vandalism''.

''We are taking an important step to address climate change, the centre-left government and create a clean, green and sustainable future for the New Zealand,'' Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

The oil and gas industry in New Zealand generates about NZ$ 2.5 billion a year [$1.8 billion], including NZ$ 1.5 billion in exports, and employs about 11,000 people.

Ardern said existing drilling and exploration permits would not be affected. meaning no existing jobs would be lost.

She said there would also be limited new on-shore permits around the North Island's Taranaki region, where most of New Zealand's industry is concentrated.

''We're striking the right balance for New Zealand - we're protecting the existing industry and protecting future generations from climate change.'' she said.

The move by New Zealand comes two weeks after the Netherlands announced plans to close  Europe's biggest gas fields as it too seeks to slash fossil fuel use.


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