FILE - Puget Sound Energy owns almost one-third of this coal-fired plant in Colstrip, Montana. All of the plant’s units, at peak production, can power 1,500,000 homes. (Alan Berner/Seattle Times/TNS)

Canada seeking new members of anti-coal alliance at climate meeting

Poland relies on coal for almost 80 per cent of its electricity, more than double the global average

Canada and the United Kingdom are hosting a “coal-free day” at the United Nations climate talks in Katowice, Poland, a city built on coal mining.

Poland relies on coal for almost 80 per cent of its electricity, more than double the global average, and Katowice is the heart of its industry. The city of about 300,000 people grew up around workshops and mills fuelled by the coal deposits abundant in the ground.

At the International Congress Centre in Katowice, where thousands of environment leaders and representatives from almost every country in the world are meeting for at least two weeks, you can see the smoke stacks and plumes of coal exhaust from nearby power plants.

Attendees, whose mission at these talks is to set rules for monitoring countries’ progress in meeting their climate-change promises, were greeted by the Polish Coal Miners Band. Displays inside the conference hall include wire baskets filled with coal. Coal jewelry and soap are for sale. The “COP24” conference’s main sponsors are all coal companies, including the Polish state-owned coal-mining concern and the state-owned power company.

Coal is the world’s dirtiest source of electricity, producing generally twice the greenhouse-gas emissions of natural gas and contributing to air pollution that kills an estimated 800,000 people a year. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change earlier this year warned of the grave impacts on the planet if the world doesn’t curb emissions significantly over the next decade, and to do that, suggested 60 per cent of existing coal plants must be closed by 2030.

Polish President Andrzej Duda used his opening speech at the COP24 conference on Dec. 3 to declare that coal is not the enemy of climate change action.

“The use of one’s own resources — in Poland’s case coal — and basing energy security on them, is not in conflict with climate protection,” he said in Polish.

Poland is not on its own. The United States, with President Donald Trump’s promises to make coal king again in his country, is hosting a side meeting on how fossil fuels can be used cleanly. Russia, which has yet to ratify the Paris accord on climate change, remains a huge exporter and supporter of coal. China, which is trying to close coal plants at home, nevertheless is funding them elsewhere.

Since the Paris climate-change agreement was signed in 2015, more than 92,000 megawatts of new coal power has been added to the world’s energy supply and more than six times that amount is planned in new or expanded coal plants. Perhaps the single biggest move to cut greenhouse-gas emissions in Canada, the closure of coal plants in Ontario between 2000 and 2014, took about 8,800 megawatts of coal power off the grid.

Canada still gets about 10 per cent of its electricity from coal.

Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna shrugged off naysayers as she spoke of plans to push the Powering Past Coal Alliance at this year’s climate talks. The alliance says all developed nations should phase out coal-fired power plants by 2030, and the rest of the world should do it by 2050. The group includes 28 nations thus far but faces stronger opposition from coal-dominant economies each passing day.

“Some of the countries have taken different tacks, but we know that there’s a huge opportunity to reduce emissions and if we’re going to meet our Paris targets we all have to phase out coal,” said McKenna in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.

She said “we are going to be working very hard at COP” to promote the alliance. Canada plans to phase coal out by 2030, although there will likely be allowances for plants that have mechanisms to capture and store their carbon-dioxide emissions. The United Kingdom, where coal has plunged as a source of electricity thanks to government policies including a carbon tax, is to close its last coal plant in 2025.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Maple Ridge pool reopening date Feb. 3

Tentative schedule set for Leisure Centre reno completion, staff training

Friends raise money to send Maple Ridge man to Toronto for daughter’s cancer surgery

A gofundme campaign was started to cover the cost of flights and accommodation

B.C. lacrosse’s great builder dies

Sohen Gill did every job in the sport, including coach/GM of Maple Ridge Burrards

Caddy Shack Strip-a-thon raises thousands for Maple Ridge charity

Money will provide Christmas dinners for those in need in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Skies open up in Maple Ridge

Strange cloud formation captured over Albion called a cavum

B.C. woman charged in connection to stolen vehicle smash-up in Kamloops

Kersten Ina Peters was arrested in the Fraser Valley on Friday, Dec. 6

VIDEO: Harbour Air makes history with first electric aircraft test flight

Successful flight marks first of its kind in the world

The Grinch who Stole a Hedge: Security camera captures Chilliwack tree theft

RCMP arrives as person calmly walks away with tree in downtown area

Salmonella outbreak in Canada linked to rodents and snakes

92 cases of salmonella across six provinces, including B.C.

Meng Wanzhou wins right to more documents involving arrest at Vancouver airport

Defence lawyers allege the Huawei executive was unlawfully detained, searched and interrogated

Police say they’ve identified suspects in Bradley Kline homicide in Surrey

Kline, 26, was found dead at 7055 144A St. on Dec. 7, 2018

Truck with body inside found at bottom of lake near Kootenay ferry

Investigators believe no foul play is expected but are unsure how the vehicle ended up in the Arrow Lakes

Bizarre ‘hole punch cloud’ forms over Fraser Valley

Several people posted images of the odd formation, which is scientifically known as a cavum

Most Read