Minister John Baird’s coal confusion

Coal-fired Power Plant
Image by Rennett Stowe via Flickr

Cancun – Environment Minister John Baird is arriving at the UN climate talks confused about what Canada is and is not doing to combat global warming. Leading organizations from across the country are calling on the Canadian government to come clean on misleading claims that Canada has banned coal-fired electricity generation.

“Minister Baird seems to live in a fantasy world where coal regulations exist and his government has a plan to deal with global warming,” says Steven Guilbeault of Equiterre. “Either Minister Baird does not know what he’s talking about or he’s lying, and I’m not sure which one is worse. Canada has no coal regulations that will come into place until 2015 at the earliest. John Baird lived in a similar fantasy world when he was last environment minister, promising a fictitious climate change plan in 2007 that has never seen the light of day.”

In June 2010, then-Environment Minister Jim Prentice announced the government’s intention to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired electricity generation. Starting in 2015, the regulations would require new coal-fired power plants, as well as plants that had reached the end of their economic life (defined as 45 years), to meet an emissions intensity standard corresponding to high-efficiency natural gas-fired electricity generation. The government plans to publish the draft regulations in April 2011.

“It would be great news if Canada had ‘a real plan for banning coal-fired electricity generation,’ as Minister Baird told the House of Commons yesterday — and even better if the government had already ‘brought forward regulations’ to implement it,” says Clare Demerse of the Pembina Institute. “Unfortunately, the government has no plan to ‘ban’ coal, nor has it tabled any regulations to do so yet. Trust and transparency about emission reduction efforts are key themes at the Cancun climate conference, and inaccurate comments like those do nothing to increase Canada’s credibility here.”

These claims follow a House of Commons statement from Conservative MP Michael Chong on Friday, who called on the government to “accelerate its efforts” at the UN climate talks in Cancun.

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