Photo: The end of a coal-powered era? Unfortunately, not yet

(Credit: Peagabassi via Deviant Art)

By Meghan O'Connell, Climate Change Program Intern

Imagine a future when solar, wind and water power take precedence, and coal is merely a soot-filled memory. While this may be an attainable goal, it is far from today's reality. Although Canada has been a forerunner on environmental issues in the past, our country's new coal regulations are another reminder that we are heading in the wrong direction. We have a lot of work ahead of us if we want to be leaders in protecting the environment.

Wednesday, October 26, marked the deadline for public comments about controversial regulations governing the future of coal-fired power plants in Canada. Adopting ambitious regulations that shift our energy supply away from coal-fired power would have been a significant step toward combating climate change. Instead, the government continues to support regulations that are weak and ineffective. To make matters worse, these regulations will apply only to coal-fired power plants built after July 2015.

The David Suzuki Foundation would like to thank everyone who voiced their opinion about the current draft regulations, and supported adopting stricter rules concerning Canada's electricity sector. Let's hope the government listens.

The statistics are unsettling.

  • Coal-fired power plants built before July 2015 will continue to pollute for the next 45 years.
  • Only 14 per cent of Canada's coal-fired generation capacity will be affected by the regulations between now and 2020.
  • Almost half (42 per cent) of electricity generation will be unaffected by the regulations until after 2030.
  • The government will fall short of its commitment to have 90 per cent of Canada's electricity produced without emitting greenhouse gases by 2020.

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These regulations are another signal that Canada is all talk but no action when it comes to fighting climate change. If Canada continues to build coal-fired power plants (such as the Maxim coal plant in Alberta), we will be locked into decades of unnecessary air pollution, affecting both our own health and the health of the environment.

We want, and deserve, better options.

It is imperative that the Canadian government strengthen the current regulations to reduce emissions and lead Canada's sustainable energy economy in the right direction. Let's reach our greenhouse gas emission targets by banning construction of new coal-powered plants and phasing out existing coal-fired generation by 2025.

Of course it's ambitious, but it's also achievable.

November 1, 2011

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