Fossil Free or Coal Free Future?

by SaltySpectator on November 25, 2016 - 12:50am

The article that I have chosen to write about for my second blog post is titled “Ottawa announces plan to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030”. The Global News article details an announcement made by Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, that the federal government will require provinces to phase-out all coal-fired energy plants in Canada by 2030. Also included in the article is the strong opposition to the announcement by Saskatchewan’s Premier Brad Wall. Brad Wall claims that this announcement undermines the planned federal-provincial collaboration on a nationwide approach to climate change, that is scheduled to take place at a First Minister’s meeting next month.  A first minister’s meeting is a conference called by the Prime Minister that includes all of the provincial and territorial premiers, as well as the Prime Minister. The most recent First Minister’s meeting took place in early March 2016, when premiers met with Justin Trudeau to begin formulating a plan to address climate change, under COP21 guidelines (Huffington Post). These meetings, as well as Catherine’s announcement which she made November 21, 2016, demonstrate at least some commitment by our federal government to move away from some fossil fuels in attempt to battle climate change. Kathleen McKenna states that the move from coal is in favour of cleaner alternative energy sources, such as the renewable energy from wind, and solar power. In a video embedded within the article, Cathleen McKenna states that “we will be accelerating the transition from traditional coal power, to clean energy by 2030”. This shift from industrial coal reliant energy, to other contemporary forms of energy was described in lecture by Dr. Robin Roth as part of a energy source-social continuum. This continuum predicts changes in energy sources used by societies as they advance from early hunter gathering societies burning wood for fuel, all the way to the future where energy is likely to rely on almost solely nuclear and renewable energy. It seems that the federal government is not satisfied with the speed of this transition of energy sources in Canada, as Cathleen is reported citing other developed nations such as Britain, France, and Austria who have already implemented plans to phase out coal energy. The article identifies the problem that coal energy in Canada is creating too much pollution. The author states that while only four provinces rely on coal power for energy in any capacity (Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia), coal-fired electricity is responsible for 10% of all of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, coal-energy is just one aspect of the larger problem, climate change due to rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. The article poses the announced phasing out of coal-fired energy plants in Canada as part of the solution to climate change, using the evidence that the move is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions an amount equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the road. The entire report seems to paint a picture of complete commitment to climate change action from our federal government. The author mentions COP21 commitments, as well as this recent announcement, however it fails to report on the continued subsidies the government is handing to large oil companies, or any of other contradictory actions the Trudeau government have displayed in regards to climate change commitment. I worry that reports like this will make the reader feel that our government is making massive moves to combat climate change, while in reality phasing out coal energy is a long overdue, relatively easy first step in what promises to be a long and complicated battle.


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