Canada’s push to elim­i­nate coal power takes on U.S. clean coal in Ger­many

Northern News (Kirkland Lake) - - NATIONAL NEWS - MIA RABSON

OT­TAWA — Cli­mate change talks in Ger­many are headed for a col­li­sion course on coal this week — and Canada is right in the mid­dle of it.

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna ar­rived Sun­day in Bonn, Ger­many, to at­tend the sec­ond week of COP23, the an­nual United Na­tions cli­mate change talks that two years ago led to the Paris cli­mate change ac­cord.

This year, the par­ties to Paris are ham­mer­ing out rules for how that ac­cord will be im­ple­mented, how car­bon will be counted and how coun­tries will be held ac­count­able for their emis­sions cuts.

McKenna and her Bri­tish coun­ter­part, Claire Perry, min­is­ter of state for cli­mate change and in­dus­try, want the con­ver­sa­tion to fo­cus on get­ting rid of coal as a power source, which is re­spon­si­ble for more than 40 per cent of global car­bon diox­ide emis­sions.

McKenna and Perry are host­ing a joint event Nov. 16 to launch a joint cam­paign calling for other coun­tries to de­clare a plan not to build any more un­abated coal-fired plants and elim­i­nate ex­ist­ing ones. Un­abated plants are those that have no car­bon cap­ture or stor­age tech­nol­ogy to keep emis­sions from end­ing up in the at­mos­phere.

“We want ev­ery coun­try to look at how they can re­duce their use of coal and phase it out and we want to be sup­port­ing de­vel­op­ing coun­tries to do so,” McKenna told The Cana­dian Press in an in­ter­view last week.

McKenna did not, how­ever, com­mit any ad­di­tional money to the pro­gram.

About 10 per cent of elec­tric­ity in Canada comes from coal, and 40 per cent of the elec­tric­ity around the world is gen­er­ated by coal-fired power plants.

A year ago, Canada com­mit­ted to elim­i­nat­ing coal as a source of power by 2030. Bri­tain has com­mit­ted to get­ting rid of it by 2025.

Since Canada and the U.K. first an­nounced their coal phase-out cam­paign last month, Italy and Nether­lands added them­selves to the list of coun­tries aim­ing to get rid of coal. France had al­ready set a 2025 coal-phase out tar­get.

But their anti-coal ini­tia­tive is in di­rect con­trast with the United States, which is kick­ing off the week with an event pro­mot­ing all the ways fos­sil fu­els like coal can be part of the nar­ra­tive of com­bat­ing cli­mate change.

“I an­tic­i­pate it will be a big story this week,” said Cather­ine Abreu, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Cli­mate Ac­tion Net­work Canada, who has been in Bonn since the talks be­gan Nov. 6.

Last month, Scott Pruitt, the head of the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, de­clared the “war on coal is over” as he tore up the U.S. Clean Power Plan, a legacy of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama that re­quired states to cut emis­sions based on en­ergy con­sump­tion and of­fered in­cen­tives to fos­ter re­new­able power and en­ergy ef­fi­ciency.

The U.S. suc­cess­fully man­aged to con­vince the G20 to in­clude a state­ment about the U.S. help­ing other coun­tries “ac­cess and use fos­sil fu­els more cleanly and ef­fi­ciently” in its fi­nal state­ment in July. On Mon­day, U.S. of­fi­cials and fos­sil fuel in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives will make pre­sen­ta­tions about it.

McKenna how­ever said the world has al­ready de­cided with its money that coal is a relic of the past.

“The mar­ket has moved on coal so the good news is you now have clean en­ergy like wind and so­lar that’s cheaper and there’s far more in­vest­ments in wind and so­lar than there is in coal,” she said.

De­spite her bravado, the Global Coal Plant Tracker shows plans are afoot for an­other 1,600 new coal plants, which once op­er­a­tional would ex­pand coal power by 42 per cent around the world.

China’s en­ergy com­pa­nies are be­hind 700 of them, de­spite China’s pledge ear­lier this year to scale back its coal plans at home. In­dia’s state-run Na­tional Ther­mal Power Corp. in­tends to in­vest more than $10 bil­lion to build new coal plants over the next five years.

If Canada and the U.K. can get China and In­dia in­volved to some ex­tent, it would be a real vic­tory, Abreu said. She doesn’t ex­pect them to agree to phase coal out en­tirely, but agree­ing to help would be a big step.

Ger­many would be an­other big get for the coali­tion, and may be an eas­ier fish to land if Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel tries to get the Ger­man Green Party into her coali­tion.

The Greens want Ger­many to meet its emis­sions re­duc­tion tar­gets, which would re­quire it to aban­don coal.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna lands in Bonn, Ger­many on Sun­day to at­tend the sec­ond week of COP23, the an­nual United Na­tions cli­mate change talks that two years ago led to the Paris cli­mate change ac­cord.

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