Keep Regulations Strong to Curb Coal Emissions

The Green Party of Canada is fully in support of Ontario Environment Minister Jim Bradley’s position that Canada needs national regulations governing coal-fired power plants.  Bradley has reacted with outrage on Ottawa’s backtracking, saying that it is not in the “national interest” to have a “hodgepodge” of provincial regulations.  The Harper government is apparently bowing to pressure from the fossil fuel industry by allowing provinces control over power plant emission regulations.

“On the heels of Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, now Harper’s Conservatives are backing away from the one step they were preparing to take to address climate change concerns in Canada,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.  “This news suggests that the Harper government has no intention to deal with Canada’s growing emissions.”

Regulations to impose carbon capture restrictions on new coal-fired power plants and phase out coal emissions have been in the works for some time now.  Some climate scientists are calling for the elimination of coal-fired power in developed countries within this decade.  Now, it appears the regulations will emerge in a weakened state, with Environment Minister Kent promising flexibility mechanisms to ease the burden of eliminating coal-fired generation.

“At best, weaker regulations mean that provinces will be able to get away with reducing emissions less overall, as they will be able to count emissions reductions they might have made anyway against the requirement to phase out coal emissions.  At worst, the flexibility could allow emissions to grow if provinces are permitted to set intensity targets or use offsets,” said May.

“Intensity targets that simply dictate the proportion of energy that can come from dirty coal allow coal plants to continue to operate, weakening the effect of national regulations.  One can already see that the supposed equivalencies that provinces would offer could be weaker than the federal regulations,” said Erich Jacoby-Hawkins, the Green Party critic for Ecological Fiscal Reform.

“Canada needs federal leadership, working with the provinces to ensure real and verified emissions reductions.  Hollow regulations that fail to reduce emissions are worse than nothing at all,” said May.  “Thank goodness we have provinces and municipalities that are working to curb climate change, in spite of the roadblocks from the Harper government.”