Canada is the world's 12th largest coal producer, contributing close to 10% of greenhouse gas emissions overall. However, Canada plans to fully phase out coal power by the year 2030. Canada's largest province, Ontario, phased out coal power in 2014, so the remaining four provinces that still use coal-fired electricity will be the next in line.
Currently, 80% of Canada's electricity comes from sources that are non-carbon emitting—the goal is to increase that to 90% by 2030. Canada's government has pledged to cut greenhouse-gas emissions from 2005 levels by at least 30%. Canada's Environmental Minister, Catherine McKenna, told reporters, "phasing out coal-fired electricity and expanding clean power sources will create new jobs and opportunities", as well as eliminate smog caused by coal powered electricity, which will reduce negative health impacts. McKenna also mentioned how she would be open to working with provinces on equivalency agreements, opening up the possibility for coal plants to continue to operate if emissions are cut elsewhere. Other countries, including Austria, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom have also accelerated their plans to eliminate coal-powered electricity.
The four remaining provinces—Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick—will have the option to choose between completely phasing out coal and replacing it with low-emitting energies, or instead taking advantage of carbon capture and storage technology. Carbon capture facilities compress emissions into liquid form and pump the byproduct into an aquifer deep underground. If provinces choose to go this route, they are required to meet a tougher emission standard than if they were to convert to natural gas. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has released a series of environmental measures, including imposing a minimum price on carbon. Alberta and Saskatchewan are Canada's major oil producers, and Alberta has already pledged to put into action its own coal phase-out plan. Alberta's coal phase-out plan will largely contribute to the goal of reducing carbon emissions, considering data indicate of the Canadian provinces, Alberta is by far the biggest user of coal-powered energy. By speeding up their plan for coal-less energy, Canada can expect to reduce its carbon emissions by five megatons, which is the equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the road.
This aggressive plan shows promise for future generations, and for a future without coal plants. Although it seems promising, it does not necessarily mean it will easily be implemented. This change requires coal plants stay below the production of 420 metric tons per gigawatt hour, while if they convert to natural gas, they are allowed 550 metric tons. However, because of the carbon capture loophole, critics say clean energy projects like wind turbines and solar panels will be stunted. Furthermore, discoveries have been made of the true danger behind the carbon capture process. After examining current carbon capture facilities, leaks, blowouts, and earthquakes have already been found as direct results of the plants.