Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. unveils 'ambitious' climate change action plan, commits to protecting oil and gas

Newfoundland and Labrador is sharing its plan to tackle the growing threat of climate change.

5-year program aims to decrease greenhouse gas emissions without harming oil economy

Labrador West MHA Graham Letto shared the province's climate change action plan on Friday. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador is sharing its plan to tackle the growing threat of climate change. 

On Friday, Environment Minister Graham Letto launched The Way Forward on Climate Change at an event in Corner Brook.

The five-year plan includes 33 actions the province says are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and 17 strategies for building "resilience" to climate change. 

These directions include plans to encourage the use of more electric vehicles, implementing the Made-in-NL carbon pricing program, and increasing energy efficiency in homes and offices. 

The report also lays out the need for the province to build climate-resilient infrastructure, address health issues that may arise from climate change, increase community and education outreach, and decrease the reliance on diesel electricity generation for off-grid communities.

Letto said the plan has been a "living document" since 2016 and is still in progress, with aggressive emissions targets.

"We know that some of it's ambitious," Letto said. "We have not been successful in reaching our targets up to this point. But we're going to work very hard to try to close that gap."

Letto said the province hopes to reduce emissions from 10.8 megatonnes to 6.9 megatonnes by 2030.

This graphic shows projected temperature increases across Newfoundland and Labrador. (The Way Forward on Climate Change in N.L.)

But Letto said cranking down the carbon won't come at the expense of N.L.'s offshore.

"When we look at our oil and gas industry, we're promoting that, and rightly so," he said. "Because we need that for the economy. So we need to find that balance."

According to the National Energy Board, Newfoundland and Labrador's oil and gas sector emitted 2.7 megatonnes of greenhouse gasses in 2016.

Officials stressed throughout the launch that the oil and gas industry would not suffer as a result of the plan, confirmed Simon Jansen, a member of the steering committee for citizens' group Climate Watch NL.

"We are an oil and gas province," Jansen acknowledged. "Several times throughout the afternoon [it was] mentioned that we are protecting our economy.

"But we can't protect … the oil and gas sector forever."

Simon Jansen says the times are changing, and climate change will only get costlier if governments try to protect the oil and gas sector forever. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Jansen said oil companies are "quite aware that climate change is real," and are branching out into renewable industries in anticipation of governments introducing emissions targets. 

The plan comes on the heels of several other government announcements this week, including the creation of an all-party committee on democratic reform, the awarding of two new ferry contracts, and a planned review of the existing Schools Act.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Colleen Connors

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