Speaking Notes for
the Honourable Jim Prentice,
P.C., Q.C., M.P.,
Minister of the Environment
Canada shows leadership on climate change and the environment
At the National Press Theatre
June 23, 2010
Check against Delivery
Good morning everyone. Thank you for coming.
Later this week, the eyes of the world will be turned to Muskoka and Toronto as Prime Minister Stephen Harper hosts word leaders at the G-8 and G-20.
With the world watching Canadian leadership right now, it gives me particular pleasure to be here today in order to announce two major Canadian initiatives — one global, one domestic — in the continuing fight against climate change.
First, I am announcing our Government’s pledge to provide fast-start international financing—which is part of the global commitment under the Copenhagen Accord to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries adapt to the effects of a changing climate.
Canada agreed to provide our fair share, and we are following through on that promise. As part of our commitment under the Copenhagen Accord, Canada will invest an additional $400 million this fiscal year towards international climate change. This contribution is consistent with our traditional share of developed country donor pledges in the context of multilateral international assistance efforts – approximately 4%. It will help developing countries reduce emissions and support adaptation and capacity-building.
I look forward to being able to share more specific projects with you at a later time.
In addition to taking action on the international front, we are also furthering our commitment to reduce emissions domestically.
I’ve recently alluded to this next initiative, and so I am pleased to be able to announce that the Government of Canada is indeed moving forward to reduce emissions in the electricity sector— specifically in the area of coal-fired electricity generation.
Our Government is working to introduce regulations that balance the environment, jobs and investment.
Working to regulate coal-fired electricity generation will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help to improve air quality for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
In addition, today’s announcement positions Canada one step closer to reaching its goal of being a clean energy superpower. We are working with the Obama administration both to develop clean-energy technologies, and take a continental approach to our action on climate change.
That said, while our firm intent is to co-ordinate key environmental decisions and actions with the United States, where Canadian circumstances and American circumstances are not the same, we will not hesitate to pursue a policy direction that reflects our differing circumstances. Electricity is one such case.
Most of Canada's coal burning electricity plants are both dated and dirty. The plants consist of 51 coal burning units, housed in 19 individual facilities. All but 18 of those units will reach the end of their forty-five year economic life by 2025.
Almost 19% of Canada's electricity is generated from burning coal. Moreover, these coal emissions constitute 13 per cent of Canada's overall greenhouse gas emissions.
The approach we are taking creates strong incentives for the industry to invest in cleaner technologies, and reflects our discussions with the principal thermal provinces as well as industry.
Going forward, all new coal-fired electricity units—as well as units reaching the end of their economic life—will have to meet a stringent performance standard. That standard will be based on parity with the emissions performance of high-efficiency natural gas generation, and will represent an improvement in emissions of about 60 per cent per gigawatt hour generated.
This policy, coupled with the commitments of the provinces, and companies who have committed to coal closures, will amount to emissions reductions of about 15 Megatonnes by 2020.
Our regulation will be very clear—when each coal burning unit reaches the end of its economic life, it will have to meet the standard or close down. No trading. No offsets. No credits.
In order to allow for adequate replacement generation to be brought on-stream, this proposed standard will take effect five years from this announcement. We will guard against any rush to build non-compliant coal plants in the interim. And of course we will accommodate exceptional circumstances to prevent disruption of electrical supply.
We will not lose sight of the potential of cleaner coal technologies developing in the future. Our country is a leader in carbon capture and storage and we will maintain that focus. As Prime Minster Harper has said, providing this technology on a commercial scale is key to reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. In these regulations, new coal-fired plants that incorporate carbon capture and storage technology will be exempt from the standard until 2025.
But while the environmental impact of these combined efforts may be dramatic, the effect on the economy would not be. This is because our capital stock is at the point, where new facilities must be constructed anyway, and cost-effective technology is available to produce electricity with fewer emissions.
In short, a responsible, clear, phase-out of the electricity sector’s inefficient coal-fired generation will allow ample time for the implementation of cleaner generation technologies. This will create new jobs in the clean-energy sector, while helping Canada meet its commitment to greenhouse gas reductions.
We have a responsibility as a country to reduce our carbon emissions. Today's announcements are just two examples of how we are meeting our climate change responsibilities.
In recent months we have done a lot on that front. We inscribed in the Copenhagen Accord a target that is aligned with the Obama administration that will require us to reduce emissions by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020.
Because of our deeply integrated economies, there are significant environmental and economic benefits to a harmonized approach in certain sectors. The transportation sector is a perfect example. We are working with the Obama administration towards common North American standards for regulating emissions from vehicles. We’ve published draft regulations for light-vehicle tailpipe emissions that are aligned with those of the United States and have also recently announced that we will do the same for heavy-duty vehicles.
Another step we are taking in the transportation sector is on renewable content in commonly used fuels. We are moving forward with new regulations requiring renewable content for gasoline and diesel fuel. As a result, gasoline will be required to contain five per cent renewable content.
We are demonstrating that Canada is an environmental leader, and that we’re pursuing our goals in a way that balance environmental responsibility and economic security, both for today and in the future.
We are well on our way to meeting our objectives. One thing is clear. Canada is serious about climate change.
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