Canada and the United Kingdom are joining forces to push for transition from unabated coal-fired electricity production to cleaner energy sources at next month’s United Nations climate change meetings in Germany, the two countries’ environment ministers announced Wednesday.
In a joint statement released following their meeting in London, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, and the U.K.’s Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry, Claire Perry, said the benefits of moving towards low or non-emitting sources of power are clear.
“Both the U.K. and Canada have already committed to an accelerated phase out of unabated coal-fired electricity as part of our domestic energy policies to reduce greenhouse gases and grow our economies,” said the joint statement. “Phasing unabated coal power out of the energy mix and replacing it with cleaner technologies will significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, improve the health of our communities, and benefit generations to come.”
In November 2016, the Trudeau government announced plans for an accelerated phase-out of coal-fired electricity by 2030, while the U.K. announced last month plans to phase-out coal by 2025.
The announcement comes just two days after the Trump administration announced that it will sign a new rule overriding the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.
“The war on coal is over,” Scott Pruitt, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, declared in the coal mining state of Kentucky.
According to government statistics, coal-fired electricity is responsible for close to three quarters of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from Canada’s electricity sector and over 8 per cent of Canada’s total GHG emissions.
Coal-fired power stations are among the largest sources of air pollution in Canada, spewing out sulphur dioxides, nitrogen oxides, and mercury pollutants, which cause significant health and environmental impacts.
Canada is the world’s 12th largest coal producer and the 8th largest exporter, according to Natural Resources Canada.
In 2015, Canada produced 62 million tonnes of coal and exported nearly half of that.
The oil-rich Western province of Alberta is by far the largest user of coal-fired generated electricity. About 71 per cent of Alberta’s electricity is generated by coal-fired plants, followed by about 20 per cent for the Prairie province of Saskatchewan.