The province recently announced ‘Advance 2030,’ a growth plan for the fossil fuel industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. Among the goals is to double off shore oil production by 2030. During the scrum that followed the announcement, premier Ball observed, “There is still a thirst for oil and gas throughout the world,” and that “the transition from where we are today with oil and gas to green energy will take quite some time. So while that transition is occurring and taking place, the world will still need oil and gas.” Asked whether doubling production would not simply increase greenhouse gas emissions, the premiere dodged the question, answering that doubling down on oil is simply responding to “what the world needs.”
The Advance 2030 invokes the language of “long term vision,” for the province, but there is little visionary about such a plan. What “the world” really needs (according to climate science) and what ‘the world’ really wants (according to the Paris Climate agreement of 2015, now ratified by 170 countries) is a rapid curtailment of greenhouse gas emissions; the world needs vigorous, robust movement toward a zero carbon economy. In 2001, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador took steps in the right direction, committing to the Climate Change Action Plan adopted by the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers (NEG-ECP). At the time, this action plan was a bold step, and among the first multi-governments efforts in the world to set GHG emissions targets. The plan committed to
– reducing GHG emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2010
– to reducing emissions a further 10% below 1990 levels by 2020
– and to reduce emission 75%-85% below 2001 levels by 2050.
Newfoundland and Labrador narrowly failed to meet the initial target, and it is difficult to imagine how the targets in front of us are to be hit through an expanding fossil fuel industry.
The Province’s own “Turn Back the Tide” documents and campaign acknowledges the reality of climate change, the origins of climate change in the fossil fuel economy, and the numerous negative impacts of climate change on the Province. The government acknowledges that 36% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Newfoundland and Labrador are the result of “large industry,” namely, “oil and gas and mining and oil refining.” It is difficult to understand the call to double oil production as anything other than a race to the bottom, a fantasy of having your cake and eating it too. In signing the Paris Agreement, Canada committed to reducing GHG emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. To meet such targets while simultaneously expanding the oil and natural sectors is not feasible – this was the conclusion of research conducted by David Hughes, under the Corporate Mapping Project, in his analysis of expansion of the fossil fuel sector in Western Canada. Concludes Hughes:
“The widely recited rhetoric that Canada must continue its de facto energy strategy of liquidating its remaining nonrenewable resources as fast as possible to maintain the economy has no credibility. Canada has never produced more oil, yet government revenues from the industry have collapsed. Yes, prices are low and that is affecting the industry, but nothing can be done about that given that prices are set globally. Maintaining the notion that only ever-expanded exports can rescue the Canadian economy ignores fundamental price realities as well as eliminates any chance that Canada will meet its emission-reduction targets under cOP21.”
The people of this province are either members of a global community, or not; we can choose to be leaders on climate change, or not; we can innovate, create, and think differently, or not; we can develop a plan to respond to anthropogenic climate change, or not.
The climate science is so well known, the implications of not reducing carbon emissions so acute, and the genuine responses to climate change around the globe so inspiring, that we must do more than lament the Province’s abandonment of “the world” to the narrow, short term gain of selling more oil. We must pressure the government to articulate a clear path to meeting GHG reductions, and to explain how the call for doubled oil production fits is part of this plan. FANE is following developments and organizing further meetings and actions in responses to the “Advance 2030” initiative.