Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson responds to a question in the House of Commons in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson responds to a question in the House of Commons in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canada can’t ‘power past coal’ and keep exporting it, environment group says

As Canada is moving to strike down pollution at home, it’s still exporting millions of tonnes of coals overseas

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says there is no path to eliminating greenhouse-gas emissions that doesn’t include phasing out coal power, but critics say Canada’s leadership is tainted as long as this country keeps exporting thermal coal.

Wilkinson co-hosted a virtual summit Tuesday for the Powering Past Coal Alliance. Canada created the group with the United Kingdom in 2017 to pushing the world to eliminate coal as a source of energy. The alliance says wealthy countries should be off coal by 2030, and the rest of the world by 2050.

Coal is the single biggest source of global greenhouse-gas emissions, accounting for about 38 per cent of total emissions in 2018.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told summit participants that the whole world needs to be off coal by 2040, or the global warming fight will be lost.

“If we take immediate action to end the dirtiest, most polluting, and the more and more costly fossil fuel from our power sectors, then we have a fighting chance to succeed,” he said in his speech.

He said in almost every country, building new renewable power sources, like wind and solar, is now cheaper than building a new coal plant.

The alliance has grown from 18 countries and a handful of subnational governments and businesses when it began in 2017, to more than 36 nations, and 120 members in total.

Wilkinson said more governments are realizing that eliminating coal “is the first and perhaps most important step” toward reaching the goals of the Paris agreement to keep limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.

“We cannot achieve those goals or create a livable future for our children and our grandchildren with coal-fired power continuing on,” he said.

Canada cut its coal-power habit by more than half in the last two decades, largely because Ontario phased out its coal plants entirely. Coal maxed out its share of electricity in Canada around 2000, when it accounted for about one-fifth of power sources. In 2018, that had fallen to eight per cent, and only Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia still rely on it.

Canada requires all coal power to be gone or equipped with carbon-capture technology by 2030. Alberta is on its way to closing or transitioning it coal plants to natural gas by 2023. The other provinces are in various stages of the transition, with individual agreements with Ottawa on how it will happen.

But as Canada is moving to strike down coal pollution at home, it’s still exporting millions of tonnes of coal to produce power overseas, mostly in South Korea, Japan, Chile, Hong Kong, and Vietnam.

Julia Levin, the climate and energy program manager at Environmental Defence, says Canada’s leadership in the alliance is in doubt if it curbs coal use at home only to sell it to other countries.

“There is no role for hypocritical leadership,” said Levin.

Environmental Defence estimates Canada exports between 17 million and 20 million tonnes of thermal coal to make electricity each year, which would produce between 37 million and 44 million tonnes of greenhouse gases when burned.

Canada’s exports also now include millions of tonnes coming up from Wyoming, Utah, and Montana, after ports on the U.S. west coast began barring thermal coal exports from their docks.

Wilkinson ordered a strategic review of thermal coal exports in 2019, and told The Canadian Press in a recent interview the question of phasing out thermal coal exports in line with closing Canada’s own coal plants remains “under review.”

Climate Change

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
A judge has found an Edmonton woman guilty of manslaughter in the death of her five-year-old daughter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton mother found guilty of manslaughter in death of 5-year-old girl

The woman was charged and pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and assault with weapons, including a belt and a spatula

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Alberta identifies 2,042 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Central zone has 2,917 active cases

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Jason Kenney urges federal government to push U.S. for surplus COVID-19 vaccines

‘It makes no sense for our neighbours and regional states to be sitting on doses that we cannot use,’ the premier said

Alberta reported an additional 1,980 cases of COVID-19 Friday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer adds 37th death from COVID-19, active cases drop

Alberta Health identified an additional 1,980 cases of the virus province-wide

FILE - In this March 3, 2021, file photo, a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is displayed at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine can be given to adults 30+ who can’t wait for mRNA: NACI

Panel says single shot vaccine can be especially useful for populations unable to return for second shot

Dr. Karina Pillay, former mayor of Slave Lake, Alta., is shown at her medical clinic in Calgary on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
10 years later: Former Slave Lake mayor remembers wildfire that burned through town

Alberta announced in 2011 that an unknown arsonist had recklessly or deliberately ignited the forest fire

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman travelling from Alberta found dead in B.C. park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

A caribou grazes on Baffin Island in a 2008 file photo. A last-ditch attempt to save some of Canada’s vanishing caribou herds is a step closer after a scientific review panel’s approval of a plan to permanently pen some animals and breed them to repopulate other herds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kike Calvo via AP Images
Parks Canada captive caribou breeding proposal gets OK from scientific review panel

Wolf density in Jasper is low enough that the animals would not be expected to be a major threat

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman’s restaurant is located in the tiny community of Field, which relies on tourism

A rodeo south of Bowden drew a huge crowd on May 1 and 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy Mom’s Diner’s Facebook page)

Most Read