Despite her bold declaration in Germany, what Minister Catherine McKenna did not disclose to the world is that Canada continues to mine and export millions of tonnes of coal for other countries to burn, mainly but not exclusively for steelmaking plants. And this will not change.
Ottawa (21 Nov. 2017) — Canada is launching a crusade against coal-fired electricity, but not coal-fired metallurgy.
This is what is known as a contradiction
Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, garnered global attention when she announced on November 16 in Germany that it’s time to phase out coal by 2030. But then, when she returned home, she said that Canada has no plans to ban coal exports to the U.S.
Confused? You should be — this is what is known as a contradiction.
Canada will phase out coal-fired electrical power
On November 16, McKenna was in Bonn, Germany, for the latest round of UN climate change talks, also known as COP23 (this stands for Conference of the Parties, the informal name for the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). McKenna joined forces with the United Kingdom’s Claire Perry, the Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry, to push 18 other countries to dissuade them from their continued use of coal as a power source.
While in Bonn, McKenna made headlines for rebuking U.S. President Donald Trump's policy to revive the coal power industry, and instead promoted a scheme to phase out coal-fired electricity generation globally.
The Canadian Press reported that McKenna also made headlines for taking to Twitter to champion alternatives to coal at the same time as Trump’s special assistant on energy and the environment, George David Banks, was holding an event promoting the virtues of coal power, natural gas, and technology to reduce environmental impacts of fossil fuels.
But Canada will not stop coal exports for metallurgy
But what McKenna didn’t tell the world is that Canada has no intention of banning coal exports. So, as far as sending Canadian coal to other countries, Canada is definitely not phasing out coal.
This strange contradictory position came to light when McKenna returned to Canada, and appeared on CTV’s Question Period on November 19. Upon repeated questioning, McKenna told host Evan Solomon that the federal government has no plans to phase out Canada's coal exports.
‘We’re not banning exports of coal’
"We're not banning exports of coal,” she said, “but we know we need to move to a cleaner future." McKenna justified this contradictory coal policy on the ground that most of Canada's coal exports are in “metallurgical coal” used in steel, and not the “thermal coal” used to generate energy.
The host asked McKenna to clarify this contradiction: “Hold on, just so people understand,” Solomon asked, “you’re saying you will not ban the use of coal to make steel, even though that has a greenhouse gas effect as well?”
McKenna replied: “No we’re not going to do that, that’s not our approach at all.”
With this response, Solomon repeated the question: “Let’s just get this clear, will you ban exports of thermal coal?”
Again McKenna replied, “We’re not banning exports of coal.”
Solomon interrupted the Minister: “I don’t understand that — what difference does it make?”
McKenna avoided the question, and despite Solomon repeating the question, McKenna restated her government’s pledge to export coal.
In other words, despite her bold declaration in Germany, what McKenna did not disclose to the world is that Canada continues to mine and export millions of tonnes of coal for other countries to burn, mainly but not exclusively for steelmaking plants. And this will not change.
All of which is to say that McKenna’s bold coal announcement isn’t exactly as it appears.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE