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the state we're in
Newfoundland and Labrador is currently facing a series of pressing economic and social issues that will have both short and long-term consequences: substantial provincial debt, increased by our fiscal dependence on declining revenues from oil and gas and by the unexpected additional costs of Muskrat Falls; a declining and aging population; and the local and global effects of the recent shut-down of core industries, such as fisheries and tourism, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic response. The effects of these social and economic threats will be worsened by the deepening climate emergency and its anticipated effects on oceans, coastal areas, health, and infrastructure. All of these issues combined have left citizens and policy makers uncertain how to proceed.
the coming storm
There has emerged an overwhelming agreement among climate and natural scientists that, if not addressed, current projections for our warming climate will likely have devastating impacts on our natural, social, and economic systems. The urgency for NL becomes apparent as we consider how closely linked our culture and economy are with our natural environment; aside from the health and well-being of citizens and communities, the strength and survival of the fishing, farming, forestry, and tourism industries are all reliant on the health of our natural environment.
Although our provincial economy has relied heavily on the continued development of the oil and gas industry, with a global push toward renewable energy and lowering carbon emissions, the environmental, social and economic sustainability of our province rests on our ability to find innovative ways of reducing carbon emissions. For the last 20 years, the provincial economy has relied heavily on the continued development of the oil and gas industry, and while the call to diversify the economy has always been there, it’s perhaps never been so necessary. Aside from the environmental and social obligation to reduce our own provincial carbon footprint, the global push toward renewable energy and lowering carbon emissions, combined with the instability of global oil prices, has created an economic incentive to look to innovative solutions as well.
where to from here?
This, combined with the current economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic, has created a situation where we can no longer afford to look at any of these issues in isolation. With an economy and society sustained by natural resource-extraction industries, we need to be thoughtful, collaborative, and innovative in our development of solutions. We must tackle climate change while also shoring up our economy and reinforcing the long-term sustainability of our communities. Creative and practical solutions already exist, but they cannot be adapted and brought to scale without a balanced approach and open dialogue.
The Harris Centre—as an independent knowledge broker and facilitator, with a mandate to encourage respectful dialogue and informed decision making— will lead a process of bringing together key stakeholders and facilitating a province-wide discussion to tackle the question:
How can NL create economic and social prosperity while mitigating and adapting to climate change?
- Facilitate informed public dialogue and discussion regarding the intersection between climate, economy, and society in an effort to reframe the discussion beyond the polarization and competition of concerns;
- Provide a neutral platform for respectful discussion of ideas and solutions;
- Identify promising ideas, actions or approaches that arise during the discussion sessions and online forum, and share these findings with the appropriate organizations and individuals, and connect and facilitate further discussions where appropriate.
The Harris Centre will undertake an 18-month, public-dialogue process that will provide a neutral platform to discuss ideas and solutions to create economic and social prosperity while mitigating and adapting to climate change. The process is focused on bringing forward key information, stimulating respectful discussion, and uncovering ideas and solutions. The project will engage a wide range of participants from academia, industry, community, and government, as well as the general public. Information, discussion forums, and panel presentations will be made available online, along with an online engagement platform open to all members of the public.
A demographically-representative Citizen Forum of residents of Newfoundland and Labrador over the age of 16 has been formed to provide feedback on the various panels and presentations that we will facilitate, creating an open dialogue between the presenters and the public. Key-findings will be synthesized into a series of summative reports and presented at a final convention, to be held in Spring 2022.
In addition to the Harris Centre team managing the events, website and facilitating dicussions, the ForecastNL project has a dedicated Steering Committee comprised of industry, community, Indigenous, and academic leaders who bring a broad range of perspectives and experience to the table; these individuals have knowledge of the economy and society of NL, as well as varying expertise related to the environment, climate change, regional development, labour, and the energy industry.
The Harris Centre recently launched a dedicated website for ForecastNL: www.harriscentreforum.ca/forecast-nl. Members of the public are invited to register for an account on this website by supplying their name and email address and creating a password. This platform will feature live sessions with local and national experts, provide interesting and informative content, and provide a forum for discussion and suggestions. We hope to facilitate a lively discussion on topics related to our economy, our society, and the impacts of climate change. We want to consider how these issues relate to each other, what challenges are presented, and what possible solutions exist.
Faculty, staff, and graduate students at Memorial who study these topics are encouraged to submit their name and research to be added to the list of expert resources for the project. Click here to add your name and research topics and stay in the loop.
1. "What's the Forecast? An Introduction to ForecastNL." 5 February 2021
2."Climate Change in NL: Impacts and Actions." 10 March 2021
This page will continue to be updated as the project evolves. Check back frequently for updates, and email Mandy [email@example.com] with any questions.