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

The health authority will occupy the building until October 31, 2021. File Photo
Health authority pays town $7.4K monthly to lease Riverside Centre

Facility is being rented for COVID vaccinations

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s mass vaccination program will be delivered to Princeton residents from a clinic set up at the Riverside Community Centre. (Darryl Dyck/CP photo)
COVID vaccinations bookings began for local residents last week

Riverside serves as Princeton’s appointment centre

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen will speed up the process for hospitality businesses looking to set up patios during the latest COVID-19 restrictions. Under the most recent restrictions, indoor dining is prohibited, but patio dining is allowed. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen speeds up patio permit approval

Initiative to help hospitality businesses affected by latest COVID-19 restrictions

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

Your old lawnmower is an environmental disaster. (courtesy photo)
The perfect lawn is pretty hard on the planet

According the government of Canada, an older mower running for an hour can produce as much air pollution as a new car driving 550 kilometres.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

A second case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at Vernon’s BX Elementary School. (Kerry Hutter photo)
Second COVID case confirmed at Okanagan elementary school

Exposure at Vernon’s BX Elementary happened April 6 and 7

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

Highway 97 being converted to four lanes in April 1990. This photo taken in Lake Country. (Greater Vernon Museum and Archives Photo #14025)
HISTORY: How the old Highway 97 in Lake Country got new name

Pelmewash Parkway recognizes the First Nations history in Lake Country

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

Flight with COVID
Another Kelowna flight with COVID-19 exposure

Westjet flight on April 5 from Kelowna to Edmonton

Most Read