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article imageCanada phasing out coal use but still exporting the fossil fuel

By Karen Graham     Mar 3, 2021 in Environment
Canada's Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says there is no path to eliminating greenhouse-gas emissions that doesn't include phasing out coal power - and this won't happen as long as the country keeps exporting thermal coal.
Wilkinson co-hosted, along with the United Kingdom, the Powering Past Coal Alliance Summit that runs from March 2 through March 4. The summit is seeking to boost international commitment and cooperation to shift away from coal power generation ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November 2021.
The Alliance was launched by Canada and the UK at the COP23 climate summit in November 2017.
Announcing the launch, Climate Action Network-Canada Executive Director Catherine Abreu said: "Canada and the UK are right to kick-start the Alliance, as science tells us that OECD countries need to phase out coal by 2030 at the latest”
The alliance has grown from 20 countries, regions, and organizations when it began in 2017, to more than 36 nations, and 120 members in total. The United States has not joined the alliance.
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China's rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic has been driven by energy intensive industries such as construction, heaping pressure on the power grid and coal supplies
JOHANNES EISELE, AFP
In a message delivered at the summit, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged all governments, private companies, and local authorities to “end the deadly addiction to coal” by canceling all global coal projects in the pipeline.
He called the phasing out of coal from the electricity sector “the single most important step to get in line with the 1.5-degree goal of the Paris Agreement," calling for an end to the international financing of coal plants and for a shift in investment to renewable energy projects.
"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, according to CTV News Canada.
Wilkinson told CTV News that more governments are realizing that eliminating coal "is the first and perhaps most important step" toward reaching the goals of the Paris agreement. "We cannot achieve those goals or create a livable future for our children and our grandchildren with coal-fired power continuing," he said.
Poland's Belchatow brown coal-fired power station is the European Union's single largest g...
Poland's Belchatow brown coal-fired power station is the European Union's single largest greenhouse gas emitter, according to the EU
Darek Redos, AFP/File
Canada's phase-out of coal
In discussing Canada's phase-out plans, Wilkinson says that Canada has cut coal power by more than half in the past two decades, mainly due to Ontario phasing out coal power plants entirely.
After coal's share of electricity generation maxed out in 2000, accounting for about 20 percent of electricity sources, by 2018, that had fallen to eight percent, and only Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia still rely on it.
The Canadian government, as part of their Paris agreement plans, requires all coal power to be gone or equipped with carbon-capture technology by 2030. Alberta is on its way to closing or transitioning its coal plants to natural gas by 2023. Other provinces are in various stages of reaching compliance.
But while Canada is phasing out coal at home, millions of tons of the dirty fossil fuel are still being exported to produce power overseas, mainly to South Korea, Japan, Chile, Hong Kong, and Vietnam.
In June 2016  The Oakland City Council voted unanimously to ban the handling and storage of both coa...
In June 2016, The Oakland City Council voted unanimously to ban the handling and storage of both coal and coke at the port. The Oakland City Council voted to ban the handling and storage of coal and coke at the city’s terminals and bulk material facilities.
Robert Campbell / U.S. Army (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Environmental Defence program manager, Julia Levin, says this leaves Canada's intentions in doubt when the country is curbing coal use - yet readily selling coal to other countries. "There is no role for hypocritical leadership," said Levin.
According to Environmental Defence, Canada exports between 17 million and 20 million tons of thermal coal to make electricity each year, which would produce between 37 million and 44 million tons of greenhouse gases when burned.
To be fair, Canada's exports also include millions of tons of coal coming up from Wyoming, Utah, and Montana, after ports on the U.S. west coast began barring thermal coal exports from their docks due to concerns over the impact of the fuel on climate change.
More about Canada, Powering Past Coal Alliance, global coal projects, end financing, Greenhouse gas emissions
 
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