Moving Forward on Stronger Rules for Coal-Fired Electricity Sector

September 11, 2012

Reputable scientific evidence continues to mount that rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are warming the planet. Climate change is a global problem that requires real solutions. That is why the federal government has committed to reduce GHG emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. In order to meet this objective, we are implementing a sector-by-sector regulatory plan to reduce these emissions.  We have already taken action in the transportation sector, the largest source of GHG emissions in Canada, accounting for 25% of total emissions.

Our plan is producing results.  Between 2005 and 2010 (the most recent year for which data is available), Canada’s total GHG emissions declined 6.5%, even though the economy has grown 6.3%.  More impressively, and contrary to popular perception, per capita emissions are at their lowest level since tracking began in 1990. Although Canada is now halfway toward meeting our 2020 GHG reduction target, more still needs to be done.

That is why we are taking action to reduce GHG emissions for the coal-fired electricity sector. Coal-fired generating units are responsible for 77% of GHG emissions in the electricity sector, and account for 11% of Canada’s total GHG emissions.  Consequently, regulating these units is a key to reducing Canada’s overall emissions.

Last year, the government presented draft emission regulations for this sector. Following extensive consultation with provincial premiers and industry, we released the final regulations last week. Although the final regulations are not as aggressive as the draft regulations, they reflect our discussions with the provinces and industry, and will still result in significant reductions in GHG emissions.

The new regulations apply to new coal-fired electricity generating units and old units that have reached the end of their economic life, and will come into effect on July 1, 2015.

Our approach to regulating coal-fired electricity is expected to achieve similar outcomes to measures being taken in other countries, such as the United States.  The new regulations will create strong incentives for industry to invest in cleaner technologies, and will promote a permanent transition towards lower or non-emitting types of generation.

In the first 21 years, these regulations are expected to result in a total reduction in GHG emissions of about 214 megatonnes, equivalent to removing some 2.6 million personal vehicles from the road per year.

In addition to the commitments made by provinces and industry, the regulations are projected to reduce GHG emissions from the electricity generating sector to 41 megatonnes below 2005 levels by 2020.  This represents a 33% reduction in GHG emissions from electricity generation.

Although Canada already has one of the cleanest electricity systems in the world (with three-quarters of our electricity produced by non-emitting sources like hydro), our new regulations will improve the health of Canadians by reducing air pollutants and enhancing air quality.  It will also further strengthen our position as a world leader in clean electricity production.

These new regulations represent only one part of our government’s overall climate change strategy.  We will continue to work to achieve our 2020 target, with upcoming regulations for the remaining major sources of emissions, including the oil and gas sector.

I encourage you to contact me if you have any questions about our greenhouse gas reduction plan.  You can contact me by phone at (866) 878-5556 or by email at

UPDATE: In 2012, greenhoue gas emissions were 5.1 per cent lower than 2005 levels, while the economy grew by 10.6 per cent during the same period. Indeed, per-capita carbon emissions have fallen to their lowest levels since tracking began.

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