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Let coal power die

When the NDP government came out with its Climate Leadership Plan a couple years ago, one of the more controversial aspects of the plan was to phase out coal power by 2030.

When the NDP government came out with its Climate Leadership Plan a couple years ago, one of the more controversial aspects of the plan was to phase out coal power by 2030.

Back in 2015, coal power accounted for about 55 per cent of Alberta’s electricity supply. However, based on the idea that Alberta’s electricity sector was responsible for about 16 per cent of the province’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) that same year, that equates to roughly 43.85 megatonnes of CO2 being pumped out by coal plants.

Given that 12 of Alberta’s 18 coal-fired generating plants were slated to retire by 2030 as per federal regulations, phasing out coal power seemed like a natural fit for the Climate Leadership Plan.

To cope with the loss of coal power, Alberta government pledged we would utilize cleaner-burning natural gas and rely on renewable energy for about 30 per cent of our power needs.

But of course, communities reliant on coal mining and coal power generation protested the plan, and Alberta’s conservatives have taken up their cause. Just last week, United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney pledged he would end the NDP’s “statutory shutdown of coal’ if he came to power.

Coincidentally, there was another major announcement earlier this month concerning a 2030 deadline — one that we must achieve if we are to save human civilization.

On Oct. 8, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gave the world an ultimatum: we have 12 years to reduce net CO2 emissions by 45 per cent from 2010 levels in order to limit global warming to 1.5 C.

Right now, we’re on track to see global warming of 2 C by 2100. But if we limit the warming to 1.5 C, the increases in ocean temperature will be less severe and we will avoid associated increases in ocean acidity, which is currently killing coral reefs all around the world.

Fewer species will die out, fewer ecosystems will be erased, and the rise in sea level will be lessened by 0.1 metres (about four inches) if we stick to 1.5 C.

Of course, the likelihood of humanity achieving this goal is extremely slim, as it will require worldwide transformative change on a scale never seen before. But we have to try.

The phase-out of coal power in Alberta could play a big role in reducing Canada’s total GHG emissions, which were estimated at 704 megatonnes in 2016. Phasing out coal power in Alberta would put us approximately 13 per cent of the way towards halving our national GHG emissions.

I’m not telling you to vote NDP; I’m not even a member of the party. But if you are a UCP supporter, I am asking that you consider lobbying the rest of your party to re-consider saving coal.