Nfld. & Labrador

Green economy transition proposed in economic recovery report 'isn't green,' expert says

With the push toward a green economy deemed essential in Newfoundland and Labrador's 'Big Reset', Angela Carter says she isn't sold on the province's plan to transition.

Angela Carter says 'hard work' still needs to be done to transition from oil and gas

Angela Carter is a professor at the University of Waterloo. She says the transition to a green economy outlined in the Greene report 'isn't green.' (CBC)

With the push toward a green economy deemed essential in the report from Newfoundland and Labrador's economic recovery team, an expert who has pushed for the province to decarbonize says she isn't sold on the plan to transition away from oil and gas.

Angela Carter, a professor at the University of Waterloo and author of Fossilized: Environmental Policy in Canada's Petro-Provinces, said she was disappointed by the plan outlined in the long-awaited report issued by Moya Greene and the premier's economic recovery team (PERT) on Thursday.

The report called for 50 per cent of oil and gas revenues to be funnelled into a "future fund" to help transition to a green economy, along with recommendations to help the province move away from the oil and gas sector.

Carter, however, said the plan still depends on the expansion of oil and gas in the province.

"Greene's transition isn't green … In fact, Moya Greene underlines it in her report as the key to economic recovery and she's leaning on the oil and gas recovery task force for answers," Carter told Here & Now Friday.

"The key point that I would underscore here is that Moya Greene is indicating that our oil is somehow clean or low-carbon or low emission. That is an oxymoron, it's a complete contradiction in terms. it's comparable to calling cigarettes 'healthy smokes' or land mines 'peace bombs'. Oil itself is one of the key products in the world that is causing the climate crisis."

When asked about the idea of the future fund, Carter said the province will likely need to be very careful as to how the provincial government directs the funds into a green transition and keep diversification at top of mind.

"This would have been a fabulous idea 20 years ago …take oil revenues, do not use them for general spending but tuck them away so that we can diversify. It's a one-time revenue source, oil is, and can't be expected to continue," she said.

WATCH | Angela Carter speaks with the CBC's Peter Cowan on Here & Now (28:28):

"We hear the words green transition, we're talking about the risk of oil and gas as stranded assets. Now what we need to do is do the hard work, which is planning the wind down. No longer focusing on giving more money to the sector for exploration, for example, instead bending the curve of production down to zero by certainly 2050."

Carter — who also served as a member on 'The People's Economic Recovery Team,' a proposed alternative to the PERT report —  said she hopes a different kind of transition will also be in place for people working in the oil and gas sector, allowing workers to be able to effectively transition into a climate-safe workforce.

Moya Greene delivers the long-awaited final report of Newfoundland and Labrador's economic recovery team on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

"Now that we've got this on the agenda, now we've got to do the serious hard work."

I think we need to view the entire report and all of the recommendations in light of the person who has brought them to our door.- Angela Carter

Further to her scepticism toward Greene's proposed transition to a green economy, Carter also expressed concern toward Greene's past privatization work in the United Kingdom's postal service.

Greene was born and raised in St. John's, but delivered the findings of the team's report from her home in London on Thursday.

"I think it's surreal to have a very rich, titled person from England, someone who's made a luxurious living by taking away worker's livelihoods through privatization schemes, beaming in from London to tell us that we caused this problem and that we have to endure tough love austerity," Carter said.

"This strikes me as really elitist and patronizing and undemocratic … I think we need to view the entire report and all of the recommendations in light of the person who has brought them to our door."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Here & Now