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UK and Canada announce global alliance to end coal power

(2017-10-11)The UK and Canada on Wednesday called on other nations to join them in ridding their energy sectors of coal power.

The two nations have committed to phase coal out of their electricity generation – by 2025 in the UK and 2030 in Canada.

Canada’s minister for the environment Catherine McKenna and UK climate minister Claire Perry met at the Houses of Parliament in London. Afterwards, they released a joint statement calling for an end to the use of the fuel that creates more carbon emissions than any other.

“Phasing unabated coal power out of the energy mix and replacing it with cleaner technologies will significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, improve the health of our communities, and benefit generations to come,” the ministers said.

The announcement of the alliance followed a September meeting between leaders Justin Trudeau and Theresa May, during which they agreed to team up on driving the global transition away from coal.

Coal plays a small role in the nations’ electricity mix – producing roughly 9% of electricity in both. Canada already gets 59% percent of its power from hydroelectricity.

In the UK, where coal first ignited the industrial revolution, natural gas has replaced much of the coal generation. This year, with the growing influence of renewable energy, the UK began experiencing summer days during which not a single coal station needed to be turned on.

“We are doing our part, but we recognise the need to accelerate the international transition from burning coal to using cleaner power sources,” said McKenna and Perry. “Today, we announce that Canada and the UK will champion a global alliance on the transition from unabated coal-fired electricity.”

The term ‘unabated’ refers to carbon capture and storage technology, which can remove CO2 from power station emissions. Such stations have struggled to survive commercially.

Both countries have significant non-coal fossil fuel industries, which their governments continue to back. The UK recently announced a $5m subsidy for North Sea oil exploration.

In Canada, heavy oil extracted from tar sands and exported around the world has been challenged as hypocritical for a government presenting itself as a climate leader.

On Tuesday at a conference at Chatham House in London, McKenna defended the industry.

“We still are going to get our resources to market in the near term; we are still going to use oil and gas,” she said. “I am elected to represent the people of Canada… that includes tar sands workers.”

The ministers did not specify which countries they viewed as prospective alliance members. The Netherlands will surely join after announcing their own coal phase out by 2030 on Wednesday.

For many other nations, joining the UK and Canada will be more difficult politically or technically. Developing countries have also been adamant that it is the responsibility of the rich to end their use of coal first. India’s government is adamant it will continue burning coal “for decades to come”.

The UK-Canada alliance will be launched at the COP23 climate talks in Bonn, Germany in November. In that country, coal still produces 40% of electricity.

Next week, a group of oddly-matched left and right parties will begin tough negotiations for coalition government. A coal phase out promises to be a poisonously tough issue.

German Green politicians told Clean Energy Wire and Climate Home this week that there would not be a coalition without progress on climate change. Chancellor Angela Merkel will have to balance this against her own conservative party’s mostly pro-coal views and those of the vehemently opposed free market FDP.

Source:Climate Home
Date:Oct 12,2017