By Kiah Welsh
Ontario is one step closer to becoming the first place in North America to ban the use of coal-fired energy.
The minority Liberals plan to introduce legislation on Monday that, if passed, would outlaw the burning of coal in 2014.
Ontario’s Nanticoke generating station, the largest coal-fired plant in North America, is set to close by the end of the year. Another station in Thunder Bay will convert from coal to advanced biomass, over the next year.
Premier Kathleen Wynne said the decision was made as part of Ontario’s commitment to combat climate change.
“Climate change is a transformative issue and one of the most urgent environmental challenges of our time,” Wynne said at a press conference Thursday.
“We have the power to change our behaviours and to reverse this increasingly critical problem – we need to act now.”
Manager of Sustainability at Humber College, Lindsay Walker, said Ontario’s elimination of coal-fired electricity would mean greenhouse gases would reduce significantly.
“Not using coal, whether it’s banned or closing down the plants, it definitely helps,” she said. “Coal is a very dirty energy source and so that will improve and make a difference with greenhouse gases that we produce as a province.”
Donald Dewees, a professor of economics and law at the University of Toronto, said going coal-free will help lessen health effects.
“It might have made more sense to install sophisticated pollution controls on the coal-fired power plants which would greatly reduce the health effects,” he said. “But, in an imperfect world I don’t think it’s a bad idea.”
He adds, “If you care about global warming enough than it makes sense to ban coal because between the possible health effects and the global warming effects of coal, we’re actually better off burning natural gas instead.”
According to a 2005 independent study, Cost Benefit Analysis: Replacing Ontario’s Coal Fired-Electricity Generation, the cost of coal generation was approximately $4.4 billion annually when health, environmental and financial costs were taken into consideration.
Former Vice-President of the United States and Chairman of the Climate Reality Project, Al Gore, said there’s a need for other countries to contribute toward a coal-free, sustainable future.
“Ontario has distinguished itself as a leader in Canada and around the world,” he said in a press release. “It is heartening to see the tremendous progress that has been made here and it is my hope that others will quickly follow suit.”