Canada To Phase Out Coal Power by 2030
Canada will all but eliminate coal as a fuel for generating electricity by 2030, with a conditional exception for Nova Scotia, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna announced Monday.
McKenna unveiled the plan in advance of a December first ministers’ meeting where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hopes to reach a national climate accord.
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“Taking traditional coal power out of our energy mix and replacing it with cleaner technologies will significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, improve the health of Canadians, and benefit generations for years to come,” McKenna told reporters. She did not estimate the cost of replacing coal-fired power with other sources.
The federal decision will “accelerate the existing timetable—laid down by the Conservative government in 2012—for the four provinces that still burn coal for electricity to either adopt technology to capture carbon emissions or shut down the plants,” the Globe and Mail reports.
“We applaud the federal government for its timely and necessary commitment,” commented Pembina Institute Executive Director Ed Whittingham. McKenna’s announcement coincided with the Institute’s release of Out With The Coal, In With The New, a report pointing to the advantages of just such a phase-out.
“A national phase-out of coal-fired power by 2030,” Pembina argued, “would avoid 1,008 premature deaths, 871 emergency room visits, and produce nearly $5 billion in benefits between 2015 and 2035.” The report noted that coal produces more than 70% of all greenhouse gas emissions from Canada’s electricity sector, yet delivers only 11% of its output.
“Public support for ending coal use is enormous,” David Suzuki Foundation climate analyst Gideon Forman commented in advance of the announcement. “People know burning coal poisons the air and leads to health problems, particularly for children and the elderly. In 2005, Ontario had 53 days with smog warnings. In 2014, after the province’s last coal plant closed, there were zero smog days.”
Contrasting the Canadian decision with the large role that coal politics are thought to have played in the U.S. election, CBC News analyst Éric Grenier suggests the decision “is unlikely to have significant electoral ramifications for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.”
The impact on Canadian coal miners will be significant, Grenier writes: “The coal consumed in Canada for generating electricity is equivalent to roughly half of all coal produced here.” But, he adds, only two of 24 coal mines currently operating across the country are in ridings Trudeau’s Liberal party holds.
Both are in Nova Scotia, where McKenna and Premier Stephen McNeil negotiated an agreement allowing the province’s coal-fired power plants to remain active for an undetermined time beyond 2030—in exchange for offsetting emissions cuts elsewhere in the provincial economy “to meet the equivalent of closing all the plants by 2030,” CBC reports.
“Until today, Nova Scotia Power intended to continue operating coal plants into the 2040s, and well past their 45-year lifespan,” observed Stephen Thomas, Energy Campaign Coordinator at Halifax’s Ecology Action Centre. “This announcement sends a very clear signal, and allows us to work together to chart a path toward increased renewable electricity and energy efficiency.”,
McNeil called it “a win-win for Nova Scotia.” But another premier was less thrilled.
Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall, whose province’s three coal mines face diminished markets, said in a statement that Ottawa had “violated” Trudeau’s pledge to work with the provinces on climate policy, CBC News notes. “The announcement last month of a national carbon tax and now today’s announcement of an accelerated phase-out of coal-fired electrical generation” has “severely undermined” the prospects for success at the first ministers’ meeting, Wall said.