Ottawa announced this week it’s stepping up efforts to eliminate coal-fired electricity.
The goal is to have 90 per cent of the country’s electricity coming from sustainable sources by the year 2030.
Robin Campbell, the president of the Coal Association of Canada, said the move will curtail investment and have a big impact on jobs.
Roughly 42,000 people across the country are currently employed by the coal industry.
He also thinks the move will hit people in the pocket book.
“When you look at the work that’s being done today and when you look at Canada in a global context, shutting down coal-fired generation in this country is only going to raise power bills for consumers,” Campbell said.
While he believes the government should spend money on research and technology to find ways to reduce coal emissions, Campbell also said the fossil fuel should continue to be a major player in power generation.
“When you look at Saskatchewan for example, which is the same as Alberta, you have a lot of small communities around these plants and mines that depend on these mines as being the main source of income,” Campbell said.
“One of the problems we face in Alberta, a lot of our coal miners are small farmers too. The coal jobs give them the ability to run their farms, so with those jobs disappearing, some of the economic impacts are going to be felt widely across both Saskatchewan and Alberta.”
The federal government has said the timeline for phasing out coal will provide new flexible agreements with certain provinces to ease the switch from fossil fuel-based energy to renewable.
Ottawa and Nova Scotia have announced an agreement in principle that would allow the province to use coal-fired electrical plants beyond the new federal deadline.
The concession is part of negotiations toward a new equivalency agreement that recognizes the work Nova Scotia has already done on greenhouse gas reductions.
Saskatchewan will evaluate the environmental and economic impact of the plan, but no such agreement had been reached.
Premier Brad Wall has held a skeptical view of the federal government’s approach to climate change and wants more provincial say in the planning.
Coal-based power in Saskatchewan – as well as Alberta, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia – accounts for 10 per cent of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
An environmental professor at the University of Saskatchewan Greg Poelzer said he wasn’t surprised by the Liberals decision.
“I was surprised with how quick they’re moving to phase it (coal) out instead of the original target of 2042,” he said.
Poelzer said the reason they’re phasing out coal it to keep up with Europe.
“Every major European country is doing it, so we need to keep up with our trading partners.”
Poelzer said doing this will help our emission commitments made in Paris, France at the environmental summit back in April.
“Every time we take fossil fuels off our electricity, we get closer to our targets.”
According to the Conference Board of Canada, Canada ranks 15th out of 17 countries for greenhouse has emissions per capita and earned a “D” grade in a report issued in Jan. 2013.
– With files from The Canadian Press and JT Marshall.