Canada teams with U.K. to fight coal power

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - MIA RABSON

OTTAWA — Canada and the United King­dom are align­ing to help wean the world off coal at the same time as the United States is propos­ing to sub­si­dize it.

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna an­nounced the part­ner­ship with Claire Perry, Bri­tish min­is­ter of state for cli­mate change, dur­ing a trip to Bri­tain this week.

The In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency says the world’s re­liance on coal has to start di­min­ish­ing by 2020 if there is any hope of meet­ing the Paris cli­mate change ac­cord goal of keep­ing global warm­ing to less than two de­grees Cel­sius com­pared with pre-in­dus­trial times.

About 40 per cent of the world’s power is gen­er­ated from burn­ing coal. In June, Ger­man en­vi­ron­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion Urge­wald re­leased a list of 850 new coal-fired plants on tap to be built in 62 na­tions. Thir­tythree of those coun­tries don’t al­ready burn much, if any, coal to make elec­tric­ity and if all 850 plants are built, they will ex­pand global coal power by 45 per cent.

Many of them are be­ing backed by Chi­nese com­pa­nies, de­spite China’s com­mit­ment to scale back its coal plant am­bi­tions at home.

About 10 per cent of Canada’s elec­tric­ity comes from coal now and Canada has com­mit­ted that by 2030 any coal-pow­ered plants have to have car­bon cap­ture and stor­age or close down.

In Bri­tain, where coal has al­ready di­min­ished to less than five per cent of the coun­try’s power sup­ply, that end is sched­uled for 2025.

McKenna and Perry are hop­ing to con­vince oth­ers not to fol­low through with new coal plants and to phase out those that al­ready ex­ist.

McKenna told The Cana­dian Press on Thurs­day most coun­tries want to choose re­new­ables over coal, but it comes down to which one is cheaper. In some places re­new­ables are less ex­pen­sive but in many places they are not.

“That’s just a fi­nanc­ing thing and if we re­ally want to help coun­tries mit­i­gate their emis­sions that’s a hugely prac­ti­cal mea­sure,” she said. “They just need sup­port to make the right de­ci­sions.”

In­ter­na­tional cli­mate fi­nanc­ing is a big part of that and McKenna spent time in Lon­don on Wed­nes­day at a roundtable on that sub­ject with of­fi­cials from pen­sion funds, banks and fi­nan­cial com­pa­nies.

The U.S. may be throw­ing a wrin­kle into the plan how­ever, as En­ergy Sec­re­tary Rick Perry pushes for­ward on a plan to sub­si­dize coal plants to coun­ter­act com­pe­ti­tion from cheaper nat­u­ral gas. Power com­pa­nies have been or­dered to sub­si­dize coal plants if they prove a 90-day sup­ply of fuel is avail­able.

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