Coal plan re­mains vul­ner­a­ble


Lethbridge Herald - - BUSINESS AGRICULTURE - Michael Mac­Don­ald

Canada’s drive to shut down all of its coal­fired power plants by 2030 could be un­der­mined by pro­vin­cial side-deals like the one cur­rently be­ing ne­go­ti­ated with Nova Sco­tia, crit­ics say.

“A 2030 date, over­all for Canada, is achiev­able and am­bi­tious — it strikes that sweet spot,” Erin Flana­gan, fed­eral pro­gram di­rec­tor at the Pem­bina In­sti­tute, said Tues­day.

“We don’t want to see any pol­icy slip­page dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions ... We want to make sure that each of the prov­inces is held to the same stan­dard and they are do­ing ev­ery­thing they can to fa­cil­i­tate that coal-to-clean process.”

Flana­gan, in Bonn, Germany, for the 2017 United Na­tions climate change talks, said fed­eral En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna is win­ning ku­dos for her high-pro­file bid to lobby other coun­tries and states to com­mit to a 2030 dead­line.

But Flana­gan said Canada has plenty of work to do be­fore it reaches that tar­get.

Since the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments share re­spon­si­bil­ity for en­ergy and the en­vi­ron­ment, the prov­inces have the op­tion of im­ple­ment­ing the new fed­eral rule through so-called equiv­a­lency agree­ments, which are aimed at achiev­ing equiv­a­lent en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes.

Nova Sco­tia is push­ing for an ex­emp­tion that could see the prov­ince us­ing coal-fired plants well be­yond 2030. Last Novem­ber, Ot­tawa and the prov­ince agreed to that idea in prin­ci­ple, with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment rec­og­niz­ing that Nova Sco­tia has al­ready met Canada’s tar­get of a 30-per­cent re­duc­tion in green­house emis­sions from 2005 lev­els.

As well, Nova Sco­tia is on track to gen­er­ate 40 per cent of its en­ergy from re­new­able sources by 2020 — an am­bi­tious goal set in 2010 when al­most 90 per cent of its elec­tric­ity was gen­er­ated by fos­sil fu­els.

How­ever, the prov­ince has pre­vi­ously pro­jected that coal would con­tinue to play some part in its en­ergy mix un­til 2042. Pre­mier Stephen McNeil has said the longer tran­si­tion away from coal will help re­duce the “sticker shock” for elec­tric­ity con­sumers.

While it’s true Nova Sco­tia has had great suc­cess in re­duc­ing its green­house gas emis­sions, Flana­gan said she is con­cerned the ex­emp­tion may prompt other prov­inces to back­slide.

“It might be tempt­ing for a ju­ris­dic­tion like Saskatchewan to say, ‘Hey, (Nova Sco­tia) is keep­ing their coal on the grid un­til 2040,’” she said.

“It’s quite im­por­tant for us to ask ques­tions about how they will be us­ing this tool. It’s likely to have big-time im­pli­ca­tions.”

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