Andrew Furey defends pitch for NL oil at UN climate conference

Environmentalist David Suzuki says Newfoundland and Labrador’s dependence on fossil fuels must stop and individual victims must be brought. (xx)

Our planet is changing. It’s our journalism too. This story is part of a CBC News initiative titled Our changing planet to show and explain the effects of climate change and what is being done about them.


Canadian climate activist David Suzuki says Newfoundland’s and Labrador’s Prime Minister Andrew Furey’s sales pitch at COP26 for provincially produced oil was the wrong thing to do.

Suzuki said he did not attend the UN climate conference because he doubted anything would be achieved – and said that Furey’s proclamation of NL oil as being relatively clean due to its lower CO2 footprint ignores the real problems.

“We have changed the chemistry of the atmosphere. And the oil that has been so important to Newfoundlanders is now something that is not working,” Suzuki said.

“It’s still oil, and the reality is that oil has to be left in the ground. I’m really sorry, but it’s the reality. It’s not me who says it, scientists tell us. Do we take science seriously or not? “

COP26 ended on Saturday after two weeks of negotiations. Suzuki said such conferences often involve states protecting their own interests.

“[Furey] “should not be there and say that Newfoundland’s interests come above everything else,” Suzuki told CBC News on Wednesday.

“One hundred and 96 nations or whatever it is, they all look at this issue as if they have to protect their national or economic or political agenda and make it all fit. That’s not how it’s going to work.”

The transition away from fossil fuels, Suzuki says, should start immediately.

NL considers everything: Furey

Furey said it was important for the province to be at the table with world leaders to share its plans for oil and gas.

He said the province brought a “message of transition” and could be part of the solution – adding that many countries will still rely on oil for a transition period.

“Like I said to someone at the COP26 conference, ‘How do you get home?’ … There is a time and a place for oil and gas,” Furey said. “No oil is completely pure, but we have some of the cleanest products in the whole world. It is a product that the world needs right now in terms of conversion.”

Premier Andrew Furey at COP26 in Glasgow. (Premiere from NL / Twitter)

But the prime minister fell short with details on how Advance 2030 – the province’s plan to double oil production by the end of the decade – fits into the global need to reduce emissions.

“We’re evaluating everything at the moment, but we believe there are decades, at least a decade and maybe more, of time that this product is incredibly valuable. Not just for Newfoundland and Labrador’s GDP, but for the whole world. This is what people need right now, “Furey said.

The Canadians want to change, but we need the leadership that says we have no choice.– David Suzuki

While electric vehicles are gaining ground in Newfoundland and Labrador, Suzuki says they are not the rescue some people might hope they are.

“If you look at all the energy and materials that go into an electric car, the benefit to the planet in terms of reduced emissions is pretty small,” Suzuki said.

“Of course, if you were to have a car, it would have to be electric … But believe me, in the long run, it’s not the magic bullet.”

According to Suzuki, the best way to travel in the future will be on foot, by bike or by public transport.

Electric cars are part of a need to rethink transportation, Suzuki says. (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press)

But beyond a need to reconsider transportation, Suzuki says, individual sacrifices are required in all areas of life to stop global warming.

Clothing and food production are areas where energy is wasted, said Suzuki, who criticized the fast-fashion industry and imports of products that are out of season.

“We can not have the same fresh fruits and vegetables 12 months a year. We live in a northern country,” Suzuki said.

Especially in a place like Newfoundland and Labrador, where food supply is an ongoing problem, eating locally and seasonally can be part of the solution, Suzuki said.

To bring about change, Suzuki said, depends not only on individual actions, but on governments’ commitment to prompt action.

He said the rapid global response to the COVID-19 pandemic is the kind of rapid action required to combat climate change.

“COVID was a crisis that is nothing compared to the crisis of climate change in the end. And look what we did,” Suzuki said.

“Think of the huge changes that the Canadians went through in the way they lived during the COVID crisis. It’s the kind of emergency response that we need. The Canadians want to change, but we need the management that says, that we have no choice. “

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