Canada lays out new rules for coal
Most people I speak to are surprised to learn that Canada still uses coal to provide us with electricity. It seems to bring images to the mind of smoggy city streets of last century. Canada, of all countries, has the ability to use better, cleaner forms of power. There was hope that the Government of Canada would develop coal regulations to do just that – move our country completely off polluting energy for good.
Today, Canada released its coal regulations – and they will allow coal to keep burning well into mid-century. While the regulations will require coal plants to improve, the impact will be stretched out over so many decades that the regulations will contribute little to Canada’s action on climate change. In that vein, the regulations will not be able to catalyze a transition off coal into renewable energy the way that Ontario has, and the way other countries around the world have been able to do.
“We do not have many opportunities to act on climate change and this is one of them. These coal regulations appear developed as if climate change was not happening.”
- Josh Laughren, Climate & Energy Director, WWF Canada
Coal emissions make up 11.5% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to 2010 Environment Canada data. Over half of this capacity is from within Alberta. Ontario used to have the most coal capacity in all of Canada. In recent years due to the province’s commitment to completely phase-out coal power, Ontario has closed 10 coal units to date, and 9 more will close by 2014. This power is being replaced by efficiency measures, renewable energy, and in some cases natural gas. Ontario’s coal phase-out is the biggest single project to cut emissions in all of North America, and has been a key step forward in addressing climate change.
What the new coal rules do:
There are 36 other coal units in Canada outside of Ontario that will be subject to the federal coal regulations.
1. The new standards will apply to all coal units built after July 1, 2015. Existing coal units are expected to not need to be regulated until they reach the “end of their life”, between 45 and 50 years depending on when the plant is built. All plants would be regulated in Canada by 2056 at the earliest – while this is a phase-out of conventional coal, coal plants would continue to operate well into mid-century.
2. The new standard will require a coal plant to address its emissions, meaning either switching to biomass or natural gas, use carbon capture and storage, or shut the plant down. No coal plant that simply burns coal would be efficient enough to meet the new standard with current technologies.
Last year there was a 60 day consultation period during which over 5,000 Canadians sent letters to the Minister of Environment asking for deep emission cuts facilitated by a coal phase out across the country. More voices are needed. WWF encourages all Canadians to contact your provincial representatives to ask for a cleaner energy future that sufficiently addresses climate change, so that we can continue to protect nature for generations to come. Because “slow and steady” will not win this race.
Contact your Premier today: