Export Development Canada (EDC), the Quebec government, the Vancity financial co-op, the United Church of Canada, and TransAlta Corporation were among 28 entities announced as new members of the Powering Past Coal Alliance Thursday, during a side event at COP 26 in Glasgow.
EDC “is the first export credit agency to enter the Alliance and played a key role in ending OECD export credit support for unabated coal-fired power plants,” the alliance said in a release.
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“EDC is committed to playing an ambitious role in the transition to a low-carbon and clean energy-fueled economy, and we know this will require a global commitment to phasing out unabated coal power generation,” added President and CEO Mairead Lavery.
“Good step, but when will EDC power past oil and gas?” snarked one veteran climate community observer in response.
Quebec’s sign-on came just a couple of weeks after Premier François Legault announced a provincial ban on fossil fuel extraction, prompting one small fossil to launch a claim for compensation.
“This decision sends a clear message to other provinces, to Canada, and to the rest of the world: ending the expansion and managing the decline of fossil production is an essential step in climate action, and Quebec is leading the way,” Climate Action Network-Canada said in a release. “Canada should follow Quebec’s example and commit to stopping the expansion of fossil production and exports while ensuring a just transition for workers and communities.”
The Canadian commentary came alongside an event that welcomed Azerbaijan, Chile, Estonia, Mauritius, Singapore, Slovenia, and Ukraine to the alliance, with Singapore becoming the first country to join from coal-dependent Asia. The PPCA has grown from the 25 founding members who first gathered in a COP 23 meeting room in 2017 to a group of 165 today.
The list now includes two-thirds of OECD and European Union governments, 33 financial institutions representing US$17 trillion in assets, and cities like Wałbrzych and Koszalin, Poland, Durban (Ethekwini municipality), South Africa, and Ormoc City. Philippines, the alliance said.
The Powering Past Coal Alliance took serious criticism earlier this year, with observers pointing out that its two founding countries, the United Kingdom and Canada, both had new coal mines going into operation. At the time, some of the heaviest scorn fell on Canada, where the provincial government in Alberta (also an Alliance member) was allowing a largely deregulated coal industry to engage in mountaintop mining in the face of massive public opposition, and the UK, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood accused of “rank hypocrisy” over a new mine in Cumbria.
But federal ministers from both countries struck an upbeat tone Thursday morning.
UK Clean Growth, Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Hands said the global pipeline of proposed new coal-fired generating stations has decreased 76% since 2015, adding that coal now supplies less than 2% of his country’s electricity, en route to zero by 2024.
But to hit a 1.5°C target for average global warming, “we need to go much further and we need to go much faster,” Hand told participants, with developed and developing countries alike working toward 2040 and 2050 deadlines for a full coal shutdown.
That will mean closing existing capacity at a rate equivalent to two large power stations per week, he told participants. “That figure may see daunting, but the alliance is here to support countries to make the change.”
Canadian Environment and Climate Minister Steven Guilbeault recalled attending the very first UN climate conference, COP 1, where any talk of a coal phaseout would have been considered “radical” and “utopian”. Now, he said, it’s at the top of the climate policy agenda as “one of the single most important steps we must take to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and the 1.5° target,” while delivering better public health by “creating cleaner, more breathable air”.
A “coal power phaseout is inevitable,” Guilbeault said, after the response to the COVID-19 pandemic showed “how fast we can mobilize and innovate globally” in response to a serious crisis.
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