McKenna trolls coal on Twit­ter

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

The Expositor (Brantford) - - NATIONAL - MIA RABSON files from Andy Blatch­ford in Manila

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.”

SEAN KIL­PATRICK/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

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

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