McKenna trolls coal on Twit­ter

Prime min­is­ter, in Manila, also calls it ‘dirt­i­est of all fos­sil fu­els’

Kingston Whig-Standard - - NATIONAL - MIA RABSON

OT­TAWA — A U.S. ef­fort to stoke the fires of coal-pow­ered elec­tric­ity didn’t escape the at­ten­tion of Canada’s en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Mon­day as Cather­ine McKenna used her Twit­ter ac­count to troll the car­bon-based fuel just as Amer­i­can of­fi­cials were ex­tolling its virtues.

McKenna is in Bonn, Ger­many, for the 2017 UN cli­mate change talks, where the rules for im­ple­ment­ing the 2015 Paris ac­cord are be­ing ham­mered out — and where she and Bri­tish coun­ter­part Claire Perry hope to con­vince the world to aban­don coal-fired power.

By con­trast, the U.S. — with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump at its helm — has fa­mously promised to “end the war on coal.”

Hav­ing de­clared his in­ten­tion to pull the U.S. out of the Paris ac­cord, Trump dis­patched Ge­orge David Banks, his special as­sis­tant on en­ergy and the en­vi­ron­ment, to Bonn to host an event pro­mot­ing coal, nat­u­ral gas and nu­clear en­ergy, as well as tech­nol­ogy that can re­duce their im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.

Speak­ing in Manila Tues­day where he is at­tend­ing the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions sum­mit, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau pulled no punches by call­ing coal the “dirt­i­est of all fos­sil fu­els.”

“Let me be very blunt about this. Coal rep­re­sents per­haps the great­est chal­lenge to the world not meet­ing its cli­mate change tar­gets,” Trudeau said. “Un­less we re­duce coal con­sump­tion, we are not go­ing to be able to pre­vent cat­a­strophic global warm­ing.”

The In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency fore­casts global de­mand for coal and nat­u­ral gas will not di­min­ish over the next 25 years, Banks said Mon­day. Coal al­ready pro­duces two-fifths of the worlds en­ergy sup­ply, and an­other 1,600 coal plants are in the works right now. And by 2040, South­east Asia will get half its power from coal plants.

“With­out a ques­tion, fos­sil fu­els will con­tinue to be used and we would ar­gue that’s it’s in the global in­ter­est to make sure that when fos­sil fu­els are used, that it’s as clean and ef­fi­cient as pos­si­ble,” Banks said.

He ac­knowl­edged as “provoca­tive” the de­ci­sion to pro­mote fos­sil fu­els at an in­ter­na­tional cli­mate change con­fer­ence, but ar­gued that while re­new­ables have a bright fu­ture, much of the nec­es­sary in­no­va­tion to store and trans­mit power from wind and so­lar sources is still in its in­fancy.

“Be­fore that in­no­va­tion is re­al­ized, the idea that the world can some­how meet am­bi­tious mit­i­ga­tion goals, sup­port de­vel­op­ment in poor coun­tries the way we should and en­sure en­ergy ac­cess by only de­ploy­ing so­lar and wind is naive.”

All the while, McKenna was on her Twit­ter ac­count, ex­tolling the virtues of al­ter­na­tives to coal in a se­ries of tweets that stood in sharp con­trast to the U.S. po­si­tion.

“Burn­ing coal re­spon­si­ble for 41 per cent of our global emis­sions,” McKenna tweeted.

“The largest sin­gle source world­wide. Phas­ing out coal rep­re­sents a mas­sive op­por­tu­nity and #Cli­mateAc­tion.”

Coal, she con­tin­ued, is “the most pow­er­ful fos­sil fuel in the world. We must all work to­gether to get off fuel and tran­si­tion to cleaner forms of en­ergy.”

Some 23 coun­tries, states and ci­ties have ei­ther al­ready phased out coal or have a plan to do so, in­clud­ing Canada, she fur­ther noted to her fol­low­ers. “In less than a decade, so­lar will be cheaper than coal in China, In­dia, Mex­ico, the U.K. and Brazil.”

Many en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists ar­gue there is no such thing as clean coal, though even McKenna and Perry’s al­liance ap­pears to al­low for coal if it’s ac­com­pa­nied by car­bon cap­ture and stor­age tech­nol­ogy.

Canada, where coal ac­counts for about one-tenth of the elec­tric­ity sup­ply, has com­mit­ted to phas­ing out coal power plants by 2030, as has the Netherlands. The U.K., Italy and France all plan to get rid of it by 2025.

Trudeau said in Manila that Canada has taken “sig­nif­i­cant steps” in phas­ing out coal and will con­tinue to en­sure those ef­forts are suc­cess­ful.

“We are in­vest­ing in re­new­ables, we are mov­ing be­yond it ... we are com­mit­ted to work­ing with our in­ter­na­tional part­ners, with our friends and al­lies, to re­duce coal con­sump­tion, to re­duce emis­sions re­lated to coal and to find al­ter­na­tives that are less pol­lut­ing.”

In some ways, how­ever, Banks’s mes­sage was not en­tirely dif­fer­ent from Canada’s po­si­tion on oil un­der Justin Trudeau’s Lib­eral gov­ern­ment.

Nat­u­ral Re­sources Min­is­ter Jim Carr has said many times nei­ther Canada nor the world will elim­i­nate fos­sil fuel use overnight, and that Canada’s oil re­sources will be pro­duced and trans­ported in a sus­tain­able way, re­main­ing an im­por­tant part of global sys­tems for many years to come.

“We need to en­sure we are cre­at­ing much greater en­ergy ef­fi­cien­cies while at the same time, en­sur­ing the way we are ex­tract­ing and pro­cess­ing and us­ing these fu­els has the min­i­mal im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment,” Trudeau said.

“That’s hard­est to do with coal, but we rec­og­nize there is much to do to im­prove our ef­fi­cien­cies and our clean­li­ness or the low­er­ing of emis­sions around all fos­sil fu­els.” files from Andy Blatch­ford in Manila


En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna poses for a photo in her of­fice on Par­lia­ment Hill in Ot­tawa last week.

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