Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson responds to a question in the House of Commons in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson responds to a question in the House of Commons in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canada can’t ‘power past coal’ and keep exporting it, environment group says

As Canada is moving to strike down pollution at home, it’s still exporting millions of tonnes of coals overseas

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says there is no path to eliminating greenhouse-gas emissions that doesn’t include phasing out coal power, but critics say Canada’s leadership is tainted as long as this country keeps exporting thermal coal.

Wilkinson co-hosted a virtual summit Tuesday for the Powering Past Coal Alliance. Canada created the group with the United Kingdom in 2017 to pushing the world to eliminate coal as a source of energy. The alliance says wealthy countries should be off coal by 2030, and the rest of the world by 2050.

Coal is the single biggest source of global greenhouse-gas emissions, accounting for about 38 per cent of total emissions in 2018.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told summit participants that the whole world needs to be off coal by 2040, or the global warming fight will be lost.

“If we take immediate action to end the dirtiest, most polluting, and the more and more costly fossil fuel from our power sectors, then we have a fighting chance to succeed,” he said in his speech.

He said in almost every country, building new renewable power sources, like wind and solar, is now cheaper than building a new coal plant.

The alliance has grown from 18 countries and a handful of subnational governments and businesses when it began in 2017, to more than 36 nations, and 120 members in total.

Wilkinson said more governments are realizing that eliminating coal “is the first and perhaps most important step” toward reaching the goals of the Paris agreement to keep limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.

“We cannot achieve those goals or create a livable future for our children and our grandchildren with coal-fired power continuing on,” he said.

Canada cut its coal-power habit by more than half in the last two decades, largely because Ontario phased out its coal plants entirely. Coal maxed out its share of electricity in Canada around 2000, when it accounted for about one-fifth of power sources. In 2018, that had fallen to eight per cent, and only Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia still rely on it.

Canada requires all coal power to be gone or equipped with carbon-capture technology by 2030. Alberta is on its way to closing or transitioning it coal plants to natural gas by 2023. The other provinces are in various stages of the transition, with individual agreements with Ottawa on how it will happen.

But as Canada is moving to strike down coal pollution at home, it’s still exporting millions of tonnes of coal to produce power overseas, mostly in South Korea, Japan, Chile, Hong Kong, and Vietnam.

Julia Levin, the climate and energy program manager at Environmental Defence, says Canada’s leadership in the alliance is in doubt if it curbs coal use at home only to sell it to other countries.

“There is no role for hypocritical leadership,” said Levin.

Environmental Defence estimates Canada exports between 17 million and 20 million tonnes of thermal coal to make electricity each year, which would produce between 37 million and 44 million tonnes of greenhouse gases when burned.

Canada’s exports also now include millions of tonnes coming up from Wyoming, Utah, and Montana, after ports on the U.S. west coast began barring thermal coal exports from their docks.

Wilkinson ordered a strategic review of thermal coal exports in 2019, and told The Canadian Press in a recent interview the question of phasing out thermal coal exports in line with closing Canada’s own coal plants remains “under review.”

Climate change

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Emergency crews on scene after a small plane crashed in a grassy area on the northeast side of Boundary Bay Airport Saturday morning (April 10). A freelancer said the plane caught fire and one person was transported to hospital by BC Emergency Health Services. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Small plane crashes at Delta’s Boundary Bay Airport

Plane appears to have suffered ‘significant’ damage, says freelancer

President of the West Coast Fine Arts Show, Brian Croft, said pandemic restrictions necessitated a shift to an entirely online event this year, running until April 30. (File photo)
The West Fine Art Show shifts to an online-only event amid tighter health orders

Website version retains the flavour of the annual live exhibition

A vaccine-filled needle awaits injection, during a COVID-19 vaccination clinic held Jan. 15, 2021 at Amica White Rock. Community Living B.C.-funded workers learned April 8 that they, too, can now be vaccinated. (Tracy Holmes file photo)
Support workers for those with disabilities given vaccine priority

News shared with Community Living B.C.-funded staff on April 8

British Columbia Attorney General David Eby. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Attorney General covers housing, homelessness and justice reform in Surrey Zoom

‘I think it would be really great to hold some sessions in Surrey,’ Eby says of legislative assembly

Scott Wheatley stands with the main Kenyan and Ugandan umpiring crew that he trained at the Nakirebe Complex outside of Kampala in 2020. Wheatley, a member-at-large with Softball B.C. is supporting a recent open letter from the sporting body that calls on the government to reinstate gameplay for kids in organized sports. (Photo: Submitted)
Softball B.C. urges provincial health officer to lift ban on gameplay for kids in organized sports

Sporting body sent open letter to both Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Most Read