November 27, 2017
Photo credit to Ray Hornsey
In 2015, one in every six deaths worldwide was attributed to pollution (The Lancet Commission on pollution and health, 2015). Coal fueled energy generation and mining, is amongst the top contributors of greenhouse gases (GHG).
Coal is abundant, relatively inexpensive, and reliable. Therefore, up to the early 2000s, its use skyrocketed. The coal industry has provided many jobs, which resulted in an amelioration of the economy, but at an elevated cost. Some of the environmental impacts of coal include, but are not limited to acid rain, drift with suspended particulate matter, destruction of wildlife, and contamination of water sources.
It is no surprise that Saskatchewan and Alberta, who are amongst the top GHG contributors, generate most of their electricity from coal. In 2015, coal-based energy was around 44% and 51% out of their total energy generating capacity, respectively. Combined, they amount to 48% of Canada’s total GHG emissions.
Last year, as part of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, Canada announced a phase-out of coal in the energy industry by 2030. This year, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Germany, Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna (alongside United Kingdom’s Minister for Climate Change and Industry Claire Perry) launched the Powering Past Coal Alliance. This brought together over 18 countries with a common goal of eliminating coal based energy generation.
Economic uncertainty has arisen in the coal industry, and as a repercussion, many jobs will be lost. This is not something to be afraid of in the long run, as the number of jobs in the renewable sector is expanding at an explosive rate. Last year, the number of people employed in the renewable sector exceeded those in oil and gas for the first time. By 2030, the number of jobs in the renewable energy field is expected to rise to 24 million (International Renewable Energy Agency).