The environment minister of Canada approved a much-debated offshore oil project on Wednesday. It is expected to see about 300 million barrels of oil extracted in 30 years and set back the extraordinary efforts made to curb climate changes.
In a statement, Steven Guilbeault mentioned that the Norway-based company Equinor’s development of oil discoveries located in the Flemish Pass Basin, about 500 kilometres toward the east of St. Johns in Newfoundland, had been able to pass an environmental assessment.
The minister said that the four-year review determined that the Bay du Nord will not cause adverse environmental impact if mitigation measures are strictly followed. Canada is the fourth-largest producer of oil in the world.
The Bay du Nord project, which split PM Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and had been seen as a test of the Canadian government’s resolve in tackling climate changes and cutting down oil output, is again expected to generate approximately C$3.5 billion as government revenue.
For the Newfoundland province, which observes the highest rate of unemployment in the country, it represents a significant and much-needed economic boost.
Ottawa has set almost 137 binding conditions for the project, including incorporating lowered greenhouse gas emissions, protecting the fish habitat as well as air quality — which Guilbeault mentioned represents the strongest environmental conditions applied in Canada.
But environmental groups panned the move right away, citing warnings from the UN to stop tapping new sources of oil or risk catastrophic and irreversible climatic impacts.
Julia Levin from Environmental Defence said that approving the Bay du Nord is one more leap toward an unlivable future.
Per Patrick Bonin, a climate campaigner associated with Greenpeace Canada said that fossil fuels need to be phased out as soon as possible, and the approval of Bay du Nord worsens the heavy global reliance on fossil fuels and the climate crisis that is negatively impacting the planet.
Even the New Democratic Party that agreed to prop up Trudeau’s minority government had reportedly accused the Liberals since they were caving to their corporate buddies associated with the oil and gas industries rather than paying attention to the climate scientists.
With the approval received for the Bay du Nord project, it is difficult to think that the record is going to improve.
The decision on the project had been delayed twice, after last year when the Trudeau government enhanced the Paris Agreement target for lowering carbon emissions by at least 40-45 percent by 2030 from the levels observed in 2005.
Guilbeault, a former eco-warrior chosen by Trudeau to guide Canada’s climate policy, mentioned that the floating oil rig’s emissions are likely to produce five times lower emissions than what is produced by the average Canadian oil project. It will also incorporate new and advanced technologies.
He said that it fits within the climate strategy of Ottawa and is also an example of how Canada may chart its path forward on successfully producing energy with the lowest possible intensity of emissions while moving toward a net-zero future.
During an interview with Guilbeault, a public broadcaster CBC said that the stringent emissions controls that were imposed on Bay du Nord while adding that the world continues to need oil.