COAL HARD FACTS

De­spite rhetoric, Canada lag­ging be­hind on emis­sions

Winnipeg Sun - - NEWS - LORRIE GOLDSTEIN lgo­ld­stein@postmedia.com @sun­lor­rie

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau wants to di­vert pub­lic at­ten­tion away from the em­bar­rass­ing re­al­ity Canada is far be­hind ful­fill­ing his 2015 Paris cli­mate ac­cord com­mit­ments to re­duce our in­dus­trial green­house gases (GHG) emis­sions linked to cli­mate change.

That’s why Cli­mate Change Min­is­ter Cather­ine Mckenna is declar­ing a “war on coal,” in con­junc­tion with the U.K., at this week’s an­nual United Na­tions’ gabfest on cli­mate change in Bonn, Ger­many.

That the Trudeau Lib­er­als are pos­ing as world lead­ers on get­ting rid of coal to pro­duce elec­tric­ity — the top source of in­dus­trial

GHG emis­sions glob­ally — is ab­surd.

While Canada gets only 10% of its elec­tric­ity from coal — com­pared, for ex­am­ple, to China and In­dia at 70%, Ger­many at 40% and the U.S. at 30% — this has noth­ing to do with any­thing Trudeau, Mckenna and the fed­eral Lib­er­als have done.

They in­her­ited that 10% fig­ure when they took of­fice in 2015, be­cause Canada gets most of its elec­tric­ity from hy­dro and nu­clear power.

For do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, Mckenna is es­pe­cially tar­get­ing the United States, where Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has an­nounced Amer­ica plans to with­draw from the Paris ac­cord and re­vive its coal in­dus­try.

“If the U.S. is go­ing to step back, we’ve said we’re go­ing to step up, and that’s ex­actly what we’ll be do­ing,” said Mckenna, a clever turn of phrase, typ­i­cal of Lib­eral spin doc­tors in the Trudeau gov­ern­ment, that is mean­ing­less in re­al­ity.

That’s be­cause mainly for rea­sons of eco­nom­ics, rather than en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism, the use of coal to pro­duce elec­tric­ity has plum­meted in the U.S. in re­cent years.

It’s also a ma­jor rea­son why, over the past decade, the U.S., with­out im­pos­ing a national car­bon price, has re­duced its GHG emis­sions at a rate five times faster than Canada.

The Amer­i­cans are re­plac­ing coal-fired elec­tric­ity with cheaper elec­tric­ity de­rived from nat­u­ral gas power gen­er­a­tion, us­ing nat­u­ral gas freed from huge do­mes­tic re­serves through the use of frack­ing.

For that rea­son, the use of coal to pro­duce elec­tric­ity in the

U.S. has plum­meted from 40% of all power gen­er­a­tion in 2011 to 30% to­day.

Mainly be­cause nat­u­ral gas burns at half the car­bon in­ten­sity of coal, to­tal U.S. GHG emis­sions dropped 11.5% be­low 2005 lev­els (the base year for cal­cu­la­tions for Canada and the U.S.) over the past decade, com­pared to only 2.2% for Canada.

Be­tween 2014 and 2015, the last year for which statis­tics are avail­able, U.S. emis­sions dropped 2.3%, com­pared to 0.69% for Canada.

The fact this year’s an­nual UN car­bon-spew­ing cli­mate gabfest is be­ing held in Ger­many is ironic, given that Ger­many has lec­tured Canada about not do­ing enough to re­duce our GHG emis­sions.

How­ever, while Ger­man of­fi­cials love to boast that Ger­many gets 35% of its elec­tric­ity from re­new­able en­ergy, it gets 40% of it from coal, com­pared to 10% for Canada.

What’s more, over half of Ger­many’s power gen­er­a­tion from coal comes from ex­tremely dirty lig­nite or brown coal.

Rather than tout­ing yet an­other Lib­eral prom­ise to phase out the use of coal to pro­duce elec­tric­ity in Canada by 2030, Mckenna should an­swer two ques­tions this week in Bonn.

First, will Canada meet Trudeau’s Paris com­mit­ments to re­duce our GHG emis­sions to

17% be­low 2005 lev­els by 2020 and by 30% by 2030? Sec­ond, if so, how will it do this, ex­actly?

GETTY FILES

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau hugs En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change Min­is­ter Cather­ine Mckenna.

TRUMP Re­viv­ing coal

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