OTTAWA — From March 2 to 4, the Canadian government held the first Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) Global Summit. Co-hosted with the United Kingdom and PPCA co-chairs, the virtual event was said to enhance international commitment to phasing out coal power, with Canada itself promising to eliminate coal-fired power by 2030, according to PPCA’s mission statement.
Environmentalists, however, have called out the Canadian government for its “hypocrisy”, demanding an end to domestic coal mining and exports over environmental concerns, as well as the impacts it has on human and animal health.
“Exporting a product which we don’t deem safe enough for use in Canada is not leadership, it’s hypocrisy,” said Julia Levin, Environmental Defence’s Climate and Energy Program Manager.
“Canada must use this global moment to put coal in the past, where it belongs.”
According to Environmental Defence Canada (EDC), thermal coal is one of the most harmful fossil fuels and is the source of 30-40 per cent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. It also causes over 800,000 premature deaths every year due to its air pollution impacts. Most of the thermal coal mined in Canada is used domestically.
“Exporting coal to developing countries ignores the devastating costs of climate change and respiratory illnesses, and makes it harder for developing countries to transition to a clean energy future,” according to EDC.
Powering past coal, Environmental Defence argued, would require Canada to phase out its coal mining and exports.
In spite of Canada’s promises to eliminate coal power, the country plans to expand its coal mining activity in the mountains and foothills of Western Canada.
Canada currently exports 17 to 20 million tonnes of thermal coal each year, tantamount to eight million cars’ worth of carbon pollution. The majority of domestic thermal coal exports are mined in the US but are distributed through Canadian ports. The US-owned Coalspur Vista Mine has contributed to the export spike in the last two years, the organization said.
In a collective press release, activists and organizations criticized the self-aggrandizing nature of the Summit, while First Nations, community groups, and environmental organizations in British Columbia and Alberta have been tirelessly lobbying against coal-fired plants for years.
“The federal government wants to use this international spotlight moment to claim climate leadership, despite the ongoing mining and exporting of thermal coal in Canada,” read a March 2 statement released by groups including Environmental Defence Canada, Keepers of the Water Society, Ecojustice, Real Hearings, and the Alberta Wilderness Association.
The PPCA Summit was the year’s largest worldwide congregation devoted to eliminating coal power. It was held in preparation for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) that will occur in November this year, according to the event page.
“The Summit provided an opportunity for those countries where coal phase-out represents a challenge to join expert discussion on ways in which they could consider a trajectory away from coal,” PPCA stated.
“At the PPCA summit, we all come together to help make 2021 a leap towards a fairer, safer, healthier world.”
The PPCA was co-founded by Canada and the UK in 2017. It is a coalition of national and subnational governments, businesses, and organizations aiming to phase out of coal power and transition to clean, renewable energy.
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