‘This project is adding fuel to the climate fire’ say environmentalists of Newfoundland offshore project
ST. JOHN’S, NL — Kerri Claire Neil was born about six months before the cod moratorium was declared.
Like many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians of her generation, being raised in the dark years following that devastating blow shaped many of her opinions, including her vision for the Bay du Nord offshore oil project.
Neil is co-chair of the Social Justice Co-operative of Newfoundland and Labrador and was one of many speakers at a virtual press conference on Tuesday, March 22, calling on the federal government to reject the project on the grounds that it “poses significant climate and environmental risks and avoids the ‘just transition’ from fossil fuels that is needed,” according to the event’s press release.
“I think it’s really important to ground ourselves in the history of the cod moratorium, to learn from that history because it was an environmental devastation that had far-reaching, long-term economic impacts that we are still paying today,” she said. .
Neil said it is the people of the province who have paid the price for the devastation wreaked on cod stocks by large multinational corporations.
“It wasn’t until we reached a breaking point that the feds finally had the bravery and courage to shut it down,” she said.
Neil fears that the public will still pay the price unless the federal government learns from this story.
“I hope the federal government will show the same courage and bravery that it did when it closed the cod fishery, and repeat that and say no to Bay du Nord,” said she declared.
“We need leadership at the federal level, and I hope this time around we have a just transition for our workers, that we can take this opportunity to learn from our past mistakes and wean ourselves off this harmful commodity at the instead of just stopping it when it reaches a breaking point.
Decision expected next month
Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault will make a decision on the project next month. On March 4, it was announced that its decision on whether the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects would be delayed for 40 days.
Environmental organizations and concerned citizens are using this delay to pressure the federal government to reject Bay du Nord.
Another speaker at Tuesday’s conference was Angela Carter, associate professor of political science at the University of Waterloo and author of “Fossilized: Environmental Policy in Canada’s Petro-Provinces.”
A native of Newfoundland, Carter spoke on Conception Bay’s Zoom call.
“In Newfoundland and Labrador, we are living the consequences of the climate crisis. It’s code red for humanity, global scientists tell us, but here in Newfoundland we already know that, especially in Labrador,” Carter said.
“What we may not know, or may not hear often enough, is the fact that this crisis is caused by oil, gas and coal. Fossil fuels are responsible for 86% of global emissions over the past decade. This is a well known fact established by world scientists, researchers and international energy analysts.
She said that to have a chance of climate stability for our children, the global community must reduce fossil fuel production.
“This project is adding fuel to the climate fire. Bay du Nord is part of the climate problem,” she said.
A just transition
Carter said the solution to this problem is to implement a just and low-carbon transition.
“We know Newfoundland is perfectly positioned for a green energy transition. We have skilled workers ready, we have a lot of renewable energy sources ready, we can learn from the successes of other countries in the world.
She said paying for this transition is as simple as taking the subsidies governments give to the fossil fuel industry and redirecting that money to a just transition effort.
She said the federal government has promised a just transition and has so far committed $2 billion to a term fund for the effort.
“A just transition transfer from the federal government would help workers here and communities here make that transition.”
Carter said she sees glimmers of hope from the provincial government in terms of moving away from fossil fuels in that it has emission reduction commitments — even if it’s not meeting them — and that he created the Net Zero Advisory Council to give provincial advice on how to achieve 2030 net zero emissions targets.
She said she sees more hope, however, in the way labor organizations are seriously considering a just transition for workers, praising the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labor’s plan for an economy with low carbon and high in jobs.