Sierra Club of Canada: 1996 Rio Report Card

[Back to Rio Home Page][National Office Home Page]




1993 Grade: -

1994 Grade: -

1995 Grade: D-

1996 Grade: F

There is no good news in this province for biological diversity. As noted in the federal fisheries grade, the provincial government actually requested that the legal size for capelin be reduced. This ecologically obscene act will render the already diminished capelin stocks even less viable, while eroding the base of the food chain upon which everything from kittiwakes to cod to whales depend.

Development pressure continues to compromise wilderness and biodiversity. In 1995, huge areas on the west coast of Newfoundland were opened for oil exploration. To accommodate this exploration, the provincial government dropped its support for the proposed Serpentine Lake/Lewis Hills Wilderness Reserve. Seismic lines are now being cut through what had been a pristine valley. In a similar vein, the proposed National Park in the Torngat Mountains of Labrador have been opened to mineral staking. The particular geological formation affected, the Rameh group, is one of the most biologically interesting of the proposed Torngat national park, having a high level of biodiversity. It is the calving ground for the Torngat caribou herd. Given the mining frenzy over Voisey's Bay, it appears that this highly significant area -- the bottom one third of the Torngat National Park proposal -- may be deleted with losses for the Inuit and the environment.

The decision of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada to upgrade the pine marten in Newfoundland from threatened to endangered is a further sign that biodiversity is at risk in Newfoundland. Forest clear-cutting is devastating pine marten habitat, and still the province is running out of wood.

It is hard to remember that the current Premier, the Honourable Brian Tobin, styled himself as a champion of sustainability in the federal fisheries portfolio. Indeed, under his watch, the Rio Report Card awarded fisheries a "B-", compared to this year's "F". Perhaps there is still a conservationist instinct in Premier Tobin. He doesn't have long to demonstrate his commitment to protect Newfoundland's biodiversity, while there are significant values left to protect.


Newfoundland - Climate Change

1993 Grade: F

1994 Grade: F

1995 Grade: F

1996 Grade: F

Carbon Dioxide emmissions (kilotonnes)
1990: 8,952
1994: 6,455
Decrease: 38.7%

Carbon dioxide emissions from power generation are down significantly in the 1990 to 1994 period: 1,631 kilotonnes to 659, as a result of increased reliance on hydro resources. Carbon dioxide emissions in the gasoline transportation sector increased 31 kilotonnes between 1990 and 1994.

While current emissions are down, government policies supporting oil and gas development and mining at Voisey's Bay will ensure that emissions have nowhere to go but up.

At least Newfoundland is consistent. The province gets an F this year because it as not yet prepared a climate change action plan for the province, nor submitted anything to the Voluntary Challenge and Registry. It increasingly is pinning its hopes for economic development and job creation on questionable oil and gas development.

Its one claim to fame is that provincial taxation for propane has been reduced to encourage conversions, a move not likely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as emissions from conversions are often worse than from gasoline.

According to a December 1995 Energy Review for Newfoundland and Labrador completed by the Newfoundland Department of Natural Resources, the province lags behind the rest of Canada in energy efficiency improvements in its economy. From 1973 to 1992, "Canada's energy use per unit of production dropped over 25 per cent. For Newfoundland and Labrador, figures for 1973 are unavailable, however for the period 1979 to 1992 energy intensity dropped from .73 to .69 tonnes of oil equivalent (TOE) per $1,000 of gross domestic product, a decline of 5.5 per cent. The corresponding figure for Canada is a 21.2 per cent decline.

"The low percentage improvement in energy utilization per dollar of GDP in Newfoundland when compared to Canada and other OECD countries is attributed to a combination of (1) a higher growth rate in energy consumption (8.3 per cent between 1979-1992) for Newfoundland versus 5.1 per cent for Canada, and (2) a dramatically lower GDP growth rate of 13.6 per cent for Newfoundland versus 33.7 per cent for Canada. The high rate of energy utilization in Newfoundland (.69 versus .28 for the OECD total) is explained by an economic structure that is characterized by a relatively low value added component of GDP and a relatively high proportion of energy demand represented by the transportation and residential sectors, thereby contributing to a relatively high energy input per dollar of output."

With respect to the greenhouse gas emissions from this energy use, the report explains:

"Newfoundland's energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are about 2 per cent of Canada's. Per capita emissions for Newfoundland are 5th highest among provinces. There are, however, distinct differences in the sector proportions between Canada and this Province. Industrial sector emissions have a far lower share in Newfoundland, while transportation sector emissions are relatively higher. These differences are often attributed to differences in economic structure and, of large significance, the proportion of hydroelectric generation in Newfoundland's electrical power system."

The higher level of personal emissions in Newfoundland requires the government pursue higher energy efficiency standards for all its new buildings by adopting the new Energy Code for Buildings and Houses, retrofits of existing buildings to that same standard or higher and incentives for consumers to purchase energy-efficient vehicles encouraged through a revenue-neutral feebate program where gas guzzlers are taxed and gas sippers receive a rebate.

Premier Tobin's election platform focused on resource development to create jobs. The Government is promoting major new oil exploration initiatives in the Terra Nova offshore field (close to Hibernia) and both onshore and offshore exploration off the west coast of the province (request for bids for 31 parcels throughout western Newfoundland issued in November 1995). Huge areas of the west coast of the Island were opened up to oil exploration in 1995.

According to Government figures, direct Hibernia related employment peaked in September 1995 at 6,431 jobs and over the long term production phase beginning in late 1997, annual direct Hibernia employment is estimated to be in the 800 - 1,000 person years range. Additional employment from development of Terra Nova would be in the range of 500 - 1,000 person years annually.

To encourage this development, the provincial Government announced in June, 1994, changes to the royalty regime aimed at encouraging development. "These regimes are designed to be sensitive to the level of risks, to be competitive with other jurisdictions and to provide for a fair sharing of resources."

Support of oil and gas development will turn Newfoundland into our eastern Alberta. Few jobs will be created and world-wide emissions of greenhouse gas emissions will increase. Coastal sea level rise, coastal damage from extreme weather events and erosion, fisheries impacts from changing ocean currents and temperatures, as well as massive changes to the Island's forestry sector as species change through forest fire and pest outbreaks will cause losses far in excess of short-term economic benefits from minimal job creation and government royalty revenue.

[Back to Rio Home Page][National Office Home Page]

Copyright 1996 Sierra Club of Canada