Feds increased coal exports, still ‘exploring options’ on 2021 ban

Thermal coal exports surged after the 2021 announcement of its ban, with the Trudeau government nearly quadrupling exports since assuming office.

Feds increased coal exports, still ‘exploring options’ on 2021 ban
The Canadian Press / Adrian Wyld
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Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault has yet to enforce a ban on thermal coal exports he announced three years ago, according to a federal memo. 

“What is the government doing to end exports of thermal coal? The Government of Canada is exploring options,” said the December 14 memo Briefing Materials. “This includes an assessment of socioeconomic and environmental impacts.”

Thermal coal exports went up after the announcement, reported Blacklock’s Reporter. The Trudeau government nearly quadrupled coal exports since they first formed the government.

The Liberal Party in its 2021 re-election platform Forward For Everyone said it would “ban thermal coal exports from and through Canada no later than 2030.” 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a 2021 speech to a United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow said Canada “will continue to do our part.”

Cabinet confirmed in an inquiry on January 31 that coal exports had risen from 5.48 million tonnes to 8.23 million tonnes since the 2021 Climate Change Conference, marking a nearly 50% increase.

“Ending coal power emissions is one of the single most important steps the world must take in the fight against climate change,” Minister Guilbeault wrote in the inquiry. 

“Canada is driving the international phase-out of emissions from coal power,” it reads. The inquiry did not comment on the rise in exports.

The volume of foreign thermal coal transhipped through Canadian ports remained stable at an average 10 million tonnes annually.

Briefing Materials called the ban on coal a historic announcement, as Canada became the first country to make this commitment.

“Ending emissions from coal power generation is one of the single most important steps the world must take in the fight against climate change,” the memo said. “It will also lead to cleaner air and healthier communities for hundreds of millions of people around the world.”

“Canada has shown leadership,” it claimed.

Cabinet earlier proposed a ban on coal-fired power plants by 2035 through clean-electricity regulations. “We want to have net zero, a carbon neutral grid by 2035,” Minister Guilbeault earlier told reporters. “I can’t be more specific than that.”

He threatened last year to criminally sanction provinces that run coal-fired power plants past 2035. He made the threat last May 17 after Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe dismissed the target as "unrealistic and unaffordable."

"We want to have net zero, a carbon-neutral grid by 2035," said Guilbeault. "I can’t be more specific than that. We will be publishing the draft regulations on that."

A reporter then asked the environment minister for specifics on the penalties Saskatchewan would face. Guilbeault said the feds have the Canadian Environmental Protection Act at their disposal. The maximum penalties are $1 million fines per day and three years of imprisonment for individuals.

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