Bet­ter lead­er­ship on cli­mate change needed from Dwight Ball

The Labradorian - - Editorial -

On June 6 of this year I wrote Pre­mier Ball, ask­ing him a rel­a­tively sim­ple ques­tion. In the days pre­vi­ous to that he had been en­thu­si­as­ti­cally pub­lic in his sup­port of the Tran­sMoun­tain Pipeline ex­pan­sion project, which (if built) would bring enor­mous quan­ti­ties of un­re­fined oil­sands prod­uct to the Pa­cific coast for ex­port.

I sug­gested that re­mov­ing bar­ri­ers from Al­berta’s right to wheel en­ergy re­sources through British Columbia might have some pos­i­tive prece­dent to New­found­land and Labrador, inas­much as we have had is­sues with wheel­ing power through Que­bec, to say the least. The ques­tion was re­lated to his state­ment on Trans-moun­tain, quoted in the Tele­gram on April 17, which read: “this is not about the en­vi­ron­ment ver­sus the econ­omy. I firmly be­lieve that the two can co­ex­ist and be very suc­cess­ful.”

I sug­gested to Ball that while this state­ment was vague, it was roughly sim­i­lar to state­ments I had heard from the pre­mier’s of­fice pre­vi­ously, and that the broad mes­sage was dis­cern­able. The pre­mier be­lieves, as do many of us, that a grow­ing econ­omy can co-ex­ist with a sus­tain­able en­vi­ron­ment.

We need not sac­ri­fice one to achieve the other. Around the same time the pre­mier an­nounced it was the in­ten­tion of his ad­min­is­tra­tion to over­see a dou­bling in off­shore oil pro­duc­tion in this prov­ince. He well knows that Canada has com­mit­ted to steep net re­duc­tions in green­house gas emis­sions as part of the Paris Cli­mate Agree­ment. Trans-moun­tain is planned to be built in par­al­lel with a oil­sands pro­duc­tion growth that will (ac­cord­ing to Bill Mck­ibben and oth­ers) ac­count for fully one third of the global emis­sions that will take us to 1.5 C mean tem­per­a­ture rise. The im­pli­ca­tions of this sce­nario are well doc­u­mented, and ter­ri­fy­ing, on global fish­eries, agri­cul­ture, sea level rise, cat­a­strophic storm events and

I pointed out to the Pre­mier that you can­not sub­tract by adding. If we have oil­sands ex­pan­sion, if we dou­ble off­shore oil pro­duc­tion in New­found­land and Labrador, the ques­tion whether it is fea­si­ble or even pos­si­ble to have any net emis­sions re­duc­tions is pretty much as­sured, which is to say that we can­not. other out­comes.

I pointed out to the Pre­mier that you can­not sub­tract by adding. If we have oil­sands ex­pan­sion, if we dou­ble off­shore oil pro­duc­tion in New­found­land and Labrador, the ques­tion whether it is fea­si­ble or even pos­si­ble to have any net emis­sions re­duc­tions is pretty much as­sured, which is to say that we can­not.

In or­der to meet our com­mit­ments while emis­sions from these projects climb, it would be nec­es­sary to make rad­i­cal re­duc­tions else­where that ev­ery­one knows will not hap­pen (a halt to all air travel, as an ex­am­ple).

So I asked the Pre­mier to ex­pand upon his quote in the con­text of Trans-moun­tain; how does he see this as meet­ing his goal of a healthy econ­omy side by side with a sus­tain­able en­vi­ron­ment? Af­ter not hav­ing re­ceived a re­ply, two weeks af­ter I sent the let­ter I called the Pre­mier’s of­fice.

A staffer very quickly re­trieved the let­ter and con­fi­dently told me that I should ex­pect a re­ply the next week. Two weeks af­ter that, on July 5, I called again. The staffer who took that call also said a re­ply was pend­ing and that she would call me back with fur­ther de­tails. This is the last con­tact I have had, and I am not hold­ing my breath. The fact is, our provin­cial (and fed- eral) cli­mate change poli­cies are shams. When our lead­ers speak of oil­sands ex­pan­sion as part of a “Pan-cana­dian Frame­work” or that healthy economies and sus­tain­abil­ity “can co­ex­ist and be very suc­cess­ful” (while ac­tively un­der­min­ing one), when they ig­nore un­com­fort­able ques­tions like mine, they are giv­ing cli­mate change lip ser­vice, hop­ing we don’t no­tice or don’t care.

The fact is Canada is an emis­sions hog; we punch way above our weight class in con­tribut­ing to the pend­ing cli­mate catas­tro­phe.

Either we get se­ri­ous about cli­mate change or we will de­stroy the life-sus­tain­ing ca­pa­bil­ity of the only cli­mate we have. Re­gard­ing cli­mate change, as with many pol­icy is­sues, we need bet­ter lead­er­ship than that dis­played by this pre­mier.

David Peters

Fed­eral Coun­cil Rep­re­sen­ta­tive – New­found­land and Labrador Green Party of Canada

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