As the COP27 climate summit wraps up, experts around in the world and in Newfoundland and Labrador say now is the time to begin to plan the wind down of oil and gas production in the province.
The climate change conference organized by the United Nations brings delegates together from all over the world to tackle issues around the changing climate with a focus on extreme weather events, increased greenhouse gas consumption and a growing energy crisis.
Angela Carter, a climate and energy policy researcher at the University of Waterloo, says this year's conference came at a time where lofty climate goals have been set, but haven't necessarily been met.
"They are not enough on their own to keep us below what has been agreed as a target of some kind of climate stability, which is 1.5 degrees of warming," Carter told CBC Radio's Crosstalk on Tuesday.
"We're already above one degree of warming, and we're already seeing the kind of impacts that are affecting our communities now. Melting in Labrador, fires in central, storms on the south coast. It's in our backyard, it's all over the world."
Newfoundland and Labrador was represented in Egypt by a delegation including Environment Minister Bernard Davis, who touted Newfoundland's oceans as an opportunity for a carbon sink and a carbon capture and storage solution.
Last year at COP26 in Glasgow, Premier Andrew Furey was criticised by scientists and environmental activists for pitching Newfoundland oil and doubling oil production by 2030 as countries look to shift away from fossil fuels.
"The world needs petroleum products right now," Furey said at the time. "And we have some of the best in the world, some of the cleanest in the world. And we need to make sure that the world understands the product that we have."
Carter said there's no such thing as 'clean oil', and the province hedging its economic bets on a rebound in oil and gas isn't the best way to act in a time of climate crisis.
"It's true that the sector has provided a lot of economic benefits to us here, no doubt. However, the lion's share of the benefits from oil have gone to oil companies. And, I would argue, that we've been producing here since 1997 and we're still up against the same problems," Carter said.
"At a certain point, you know, we have to ask ourselves, are we doing the same things over and over again and hoping for a different result this time?"
Production must decline, says advocate
Tzeporah Berman, chair of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty aimed at phasing out fossil fuels and advocating for a just transition away from the fuels, says the province increasing oil production by 2030 while promoting net-zero emissions by 2050 is contradictory.
"If you're committed to net zero, you can't be expanding new oil and gas development. There's no room, the math doesn't add up, it doesn't fit. So we need production declines now if we're going to fight climate change and meet our goals under the Paris Agreement," Berman said.
"We're not talking about turning off the taps overnight. You can't. But new expansion of oil and gas, at this point in history, threatens lives."
Asked about the prospect of a carbon sink off Newfoundland, Berman said players in the industry should be looking at all options — but cautioned it would have to be done correctly.
"We're gonna need to store more carbon, but we can't use that as an excuse to expand fossil fuel development. And we have to be very careful about how we do it, because often are solutions can actually do more damage if we don't do them carefully," Berman said.