During a visit to the United Kingdom and Ireland last week Catherine McKenna met with British minister of state for Climate and industry and made a commitment to phasing out coal use both in Canada and the UK. They hope this joint commitment will push other countries to make similar commitments, especially in the lead up to the 23rd Conference of the Parties, to be held in Bonn Germany and under the Presidency of Fiji in early November 2017.
One of the specifications in the plan is that unless coal plants have active and functional carbon capture and storage systems in place, this will be subject to this phase out. Carbon capture and storage is still not yet commonplace, so not many coal plants have been retrofitted with this technology. Canada has committed to phase out coal by 2030, and the UK, the more ambitious 2025. Though coal only makes up 9% of Canada’s current electricity generation mix, as burning coal creates more CO2 emissions than any other fuel type, this reduction will still make a significant dent in our greenhouse gas emissions. In an announcement made last week, the Netherlands has also committed to phase out coal by 2030. Though these three commitments certainly signify progress certain developed countries and climate leaders still rely heavily on coal, such as Germany, where coal produces 40% of electricity.
Though phasing out coal will certainly not make Canada’s grid completely green, it is a step in the right direction. One can also hope that as momentum builds to phase out coal in the developed world, coupled with renewables coming down in price it will also drive momentum to accelerate coal phase out in developing countries, where the coal industry has significant health implications for its millions of workers in addition to the broader environmental issues caused by burning coal as fuel. I will certainly be following the coal story as Climate talks begin in Bonn in a few weeks from now.
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