WORLD DOES NOT NEED MORE CANADA ON THE COAL FRONT.
Of all the empty gestures in the pathetic history of global climate policy-making, few match the air-headedness of Canada’s intent — to be officially announced Thursday at the United Nations COP23 climate conference in Bonn — to lead a global campaign to rid the world of carbon-emitting coal.
By any measure, Canada is a nobody in the coal business, ranking near the bottom of all global measures of the industry, worth less than one per cent of global production and consumption. Canada is a non-player, a zero, an insignificant speck on the great world coal market.
But that isn’t stopping Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, donning her Climate Crusader Halloween outfit, from swooshing into COP23 to take on the world. “Canada is committed to phasing out coal,” she said. Not just in Canada. “We’ve created an alliance with the U.K., we’re going to get other countries around the world to help support moving forward on a coal phase-out. Coal is not only the most polluting fossil fuel but it’s also terrible for health.”
At last report, McKenna had recruited Italy and the Netherlands to join her anti-coal crusade. Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are just like us: tiny players in coal, but big players in the greatest climate industry of all, political posturing.
It’s been 25 years since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit established the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Over the quarter-century through 22 Conventions of the Parties and assorted protocols and agreements, from Kyoto to Copenhagen to Cancun to Paris, the great international climate-control machine has produced millions of words and kept tens of thousands of bureaucrats and NGOs, corporate-sustainability executives and politicians busy agreeing to continue to agree to do something about what they all agree is an urgent global crisis.
The hallmark of the annual Conventions of the Parties (COP) events is political grandstanding surrounded by spectacle that leads nowhere. It leads nowhere for good reason.
The calls to put an end to the use of fossil fuels such as coal keep running up against the reality that continued use of fossil fuels is essential to increasing economic growth and prosperity for all the world’s people.
Wind and solar can never provide the energy needed to power and feed the world. They cannot replace coal or oil or gas.
There are no real alternatives to fossil fuels. But the UN machine, 25 years after its creation, keeps spinning out empty plans, proposals, protocols and schemes.
And now Canada has offered the UN one of its own empty-headed schemes: saving the world from coal.
Here’s a rough ranking of the world’s coal-consuming nations (as listed by endcoal.org) and ranked by megawatts of generating capacity and percentage share of global capacity:
Most of these countries, along with others around the world, have new coal plants under construction that, combined, will add new global capacity of 263,961 megawatts in coming years. Still more coal plants are in the planning stage. Canada, meanwhile, has zero coal plants under construction and an existing few plants with a capacity of 9,809 megawatts, equivalent to 0.45 per cent of world capacity.
By announcing Ottawa’s anti-coal crusade, McKenna effectively declared climate war on other nations. No, not the United States, although media reports instantly positioned her move as a brush off to Trump. As Canada the Climate Crusader flew into Bonn to fight coal, the United States — which some say is shaping up to be the world’s energy superpower — staged an event promoting clean coal as the way of the future.
By going after coal, Ottawa and McKenna have staked out a tricky geopolitical position. While McKenna postured in Bonn against the U.S. and coal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Manila, attempting to charm the Asians. On Monday he met with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a group of 10 countries with big plans to continue to boost economic development. And they plan to do it with coal.
ASEAN member include Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, all of which have big coal projects in the works. Did Trudeau lean in on the Philippines’ leader and whisper, “Listen, forget those coal plants or I’ll send my environment minister after you?” Vietnam is also a major coal producer eager to supply the region with the coal it needs.
At a meeting in September, ASEAN energy ministers reviewed forecasts that clean coal would allow the region to increase coal’s share of power generation in the region from 32 per cent to 50 per cent by 2040. In a statement, the energy ministers said they “discussed the outlook through 2040 on the rising coal use in the region and reaffirmed the need for increased promotion of clean coal technologies (CCT). They acknowledged the continuing role of coal in addressing the energy security, economic competitiveness, and environmental sustainability in the region.”
Coal power is abundant and affordable, and experts say clean coal can help supply the world’s developing nations with the new energy it needs to grow and prosper. This is one case where the world meeting in Bonn does not need more Canada and its crusading politicians.