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Siobhan Coady, deputy premier and minister of finance for Newfoundland and Labrador, delivers the 2023 provincial budget in the House of Assembly, in St John's, on March 23.Paul Daly/The Canadian Press

Climate scientists say there is no such thing as “low-carbon oil,” despite the Newfoundland and Labrador government’s claims that it exists in the province’s offshore.

Damon Matthews, a climate science professor at Concordia University, says the term is a misnomer.

He says it’s true that there are fewer greenhouse gas emissions produced from extracting oil from offshore Newfoundland than from the oil sands in Alberta.

But Matthews says extraction emissions are a small percentage of oil’s carbon footprint – it’s the emissions when oil is burned that are the driving force behind climate change.

Newfoundland and Labrador Finance Minister Siobhan Coady touted the province’s “low-carbon oil” last week as she defended her government’s investment of more than $60 million for oil exploration.

Daniel Scott, a geography professor at the University of Waterloo, says there is no room for oil in the low-carbon transition that governments – including Canada – committed to under the Paris Agreement.

The approximately 195 signatories to the agreement committed to limiting global temperature increases to 1.5 C.

University of British Columbia biologist William Cheung was among the authors of the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, released days before Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial budget.

Cheung, director of the university’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, says Newfoundland and Labrador’s decision to continue financing and encouraging oil exploration goes against the science and key findings outlined in the report.

“The world needs to go into deep, rapid and sustained mitigations now,” Cheung said, referring to the report’s recommendations on greenhouse gas reductions. “And we know that fossil fuel emissions are the largest source of emissions historically and currently contributing to climate change.”

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