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Eliminating coal from the planet’s energy portfolio

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by Steven Guilbeault, Senior Director, Équiterre

Coal is rarely mentioned in Quebec, owing to its miniscule place in our energy portfolio (only 1.27% of energy consumption). The situation is quite different elsewhere in the country and in the world. Coal represents nearly 60% of electricity generation in Nova Scotia and 55% in Alberta.

On a world scale, coal still accounts for some 40% of energy production and is thus a major contributor to the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions. It also contributes to atmospheric pollution, and is estimated to cause 800,000 deaths each year (yes, you read that right).

It should come as no surprise, then, that for many years there have been active efforts throughout the world to curb its use. In Ontario, where coal accounted for a quarter of electricity production in 2003, the government completely phased out its use by 2014. Alberta has also announced it will do likewise by 2030.

The same goes for the federal government, which pledged last year to eliminate all coal-fired electricity across the country by the year 2030. To that end, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and her British counterpart Claire Perry have signed an agreement to phase out coal use and have undertaken to promote these efforts internationally.

Their coalition now counts over 25 countries and federated states, including France, the Marshall Islands, New Zealand and Mexico, along with Washington State, California, Oregon, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

Canada must now display the same leadership here at home by ensuring that coal-fired electricity has been completely phased out in Canada by the year 2030.

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