Nearly five years ago Jim Prentice, then Minister of the Environment in the Federal Cabinet, made it clear to the power industry that Canada’s 2020 emission target required a move away from coal.
The next year the Federal Government banned construction of new generating plants fired by coal unless equipped with Carbon Capture and Storage. The Government delayed the application of the law until 2015.
Alberta was a beneficiary of the delayed application of the law. Transalta got last minute approval to build a large plant that added to the significant percentage of electricity generated in Alberta from coal. There were no other new plants contemplated at the time.
Naturally the industry voiced its concern that the new law could hurt shareholder value and drive up costs for energy consumers.
But there was a positive side to the law. Prentice appreciated that regulation of coal-fired plants would help deflect criticism of growing emissions from the tar sands.
Since the law was passed, Canada has frequently claimed that the ban of coal fired plants demonstrates Canada’s leadership in fighting climate change.
Canada’s representatives at the COP meeting have invoked his claim of so often that few other nations now give it any credit. It has certainly not persuaded President Obama that Canada deserves approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
For more on Keystone XL go to this commentary on strategy of the Province of Alberta .
Read this April 2010 column by Shawn McCarthy in the Globe & Mail