Premier Andrew Furey of Newfoundland and Labrador promoted the environmental pluses of his province’s offshore oil and gas sector as he attended the recent UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

Furey attended the COP26 Summit as part of the Canadian delegation. In addition to promoting Newfoundland and Labrador’s commitment to combating climate change, Furey carried a message about the world’s continuing need for oil and gas and the advantages of the province’s offshore supply.

“The world needs petroleum products right now,” Furey said in an interview with CBC from Glasgow. “And we have some of the best in the world, some of the cleanest in the world. And we need to make sure that the world understands the product that we have.”

It’s a critical message for Newfoundland and Labrador, where energy, including oil and gas, accounts for 37 per cent of the province’s GDP and is by far the province’s top export. Furey said it was important for the province to be part of the global discussion; otherwise it risks having difficult solutions imposed upon it.

The premier wasn’t alone in wanting to make the case for petroleum products at the climate change conference. Oil and gas representatives were front and centre at the summit, where more than 500 delegates represented the fossil fuel sector and oil-producing jurisdictions.

Furey said being part of the conversation means speaking to what he sees as positive aspects of Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore oil industry. Oil produced in the province has one of the lowest carbon footprints in North America and internationally.

“I think it’s appropriately positioned during this time of transition to be the product that the world needs,” he said.

The overarching goal of the summit was to secure commitments to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century to keep global warming to within 1.5 degrees. At the conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged that a hard cap will be coming on Canadian oil and gas emissions.

Furey said his provincial government is working toward a greener future, with a net-zero goal of 2050 and a committee coming to help determine ways to meet that goal. One thing working in the province’s favour, he said, is an abundance of green energy in addition to oil and gas.