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PC MHA says N.L. attending climate conference sends wrong message to oil and gas industry

Terra Nova MHA Lloyd Parrott was the first candidate to announce his intentions to run in the PC Party leadership race. (Submitted by Lloyd Parrott - image credit)
Terra Nova MHA Lloyd Parrott was the first candidate to announce his intentions to run in the PC Party leadership race. (Submitted by Lloyd Parrott - image credit)
Terra Nova MHA Lloyd Parrott was the first candidate to announce his intentions to run in the PC Party leadership race.
Terra Nova MHA Lloyd Parrott was the first candidate to announce his intentions to run in the PC Party leadership race.

Terra Nova MHA Lloyd Parrott says the provincial government is not doing enough to support the oil and gas industry. (Submitted by Lloyd Parrott)

A Progressive Conservative politician is accusing the Newfoundland and Labrador government of failing to support the oil and gas industry by spending thousands of dollars to attend an international climate conference.

It stems from the provincial government sending three representatives, including Minister of Environment and Climate Change Bernard Davis, to attend last year's UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP28.

The climate summit took place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates in December and brought delegates together from around the world to discuss climate change and how to mitigate the rise in global temperatures.

The PCs filed an access to information request, which was shared with CBC News, that found government spent $15,000 on the trip. The 70-page document shows airline tickets, meals, accommodations and other expenses.

Lloyd Parrott, PC energy critic and MHA for Terra Nova, is taking issue with the province's decision to attend the summit and the costs to be there.

"My concern is, and always has been, the future of our oil and gas," he said.

"To see a minister of the Crown go over to COP and, you know, a $15,000 bill basically to celebrate what almost appears to be the beginning of the end of our oil and gas industry, it's a bit disturbing."

During COP28, representatives reached an agreement to move away from fossil fuels in the energy sector, but did not recommend phasing them out over the next decade to combat climate change.

We're not standing up for our oil and gas resources. - Lloyd Parrott

That's not how Parrott sees it, who sent out a statement Friday afternoon pointing to how the agreement claimed to signal "the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era."

That messaging didn't come from the province, but it's still a problem for Parrott, who has worked in the oil and gas industry in the past, including sitting on the board of directors of the Hebron project throughout its construction.

"At the end of the day, you know, when the minister goes over and we're not standing up for our oil and gas resources, when we've got other countries in the world who have firmly said that they will continue to produce, and we're literally pushing away," he said.

He pointed to the offshore seismic oil exploration program being paused and a recent offshore land sale for oil that failed to attract any bidders.

CBC News reached out to the premier's office but spokesperson Meghan McCabe said no one was available to speak Friday afternoon due to Minister Derrick Bragg's funeral.

Over email, provincial Environment and Climate change spokesperson Marium Oishee said the department hadn't seen the PC statement, but that "COP28 provided a platform for exploring both the challenges of achieving global climate change targets and identifying the opportunities presented by the green transition."

She added the conference also allowed the government to share its efforts to address climate change, contribute to the global policy dialogue, as well as learn about best practices of other jurisdictions.

'Silver bullet' in oil and gas

Parrott also accused the Liberal government of failing to fight for the people of the province, as they should be the primary beneficiaries of the industry.

"My job is to represent the men and women who put me here, and it is my firm belief that as long as there's oil coming out from underneath the ocean or from the ground anywhere, we should be doing it," he said.

"The Liberal government has celebrated the beginning of the end of the oil industry. And the reality of it is, is they're turning their backs on the people who put them there to represent them."

Climate activists protest against fossil fuels during the final stages of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 12, 2023. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
Climate activists protest against fossil fuels during the final stages of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 12, 2023. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

Climate activists protest against fossil fuels during the final stages of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 12, 2023. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani (Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters)

While Parrott said he supports a transition to green energy, he believes that the province's oil and gas could aid in that transition.

"Our silver bullet is through oil and gas. We need money in order to do that. We have some of the cleanest oil in the world and I know that sounds like doublespeak from me, but the reality of it is, our oil is coming in, it's creating far less of a carbon footprint than any of the oil that we're bring in," he said.

It's a message Premier Andrew Furey has also promoted. In 2021, he attended COP26 in Glasgow, where he touted N.L.'s "clean" fossil fuels, a claim that is disputed by some.

However, Parrott said both the federal and provincial governments are "scaring industry away."

When asked if a PC-led provincial government would send delegates to attend future UN climate change summits, he said they'd have to look at the agenda before signing on.

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