In an effort to curb climate change, both Britain and Canada have announced plans to stop building new conventional coal power plants, a move long-advocated by environmentalists. Both nations have turned their sights to the possibility of clean coal, a controversial and still unproven method that has divided environmentalists, scientists, and policy makers.
On Friday, Britain’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, announced that any new coal power plants—and Britain plans to build up to four—must include carbon capture and storage (CCS), which proposes to liquefy a power plant’s carbon emissions and store them deep underground.
“The era of new unabated coal has come to an end,” Miliband said according to The Independent. Miliband claimed that Britain’s plan was “the most environmentally ambitious of any country in the world, and puts us in a world leadership position on CCS and coal”.
Milibrand further announced that if CCS proves effective, all new coal power plants will be outfitted with the technology to cover 100 percent of their emissions by 2020.
Canada’s federal government has reached similar conclusions. Environment Minister Jim Prentice has said that any new coal plants will include CCS technology and old conventional coal plants will be phased out. The majority of Canada’s coal power plants are likely to be closed by 2025.
“The approach that we’ve been working towards involves a cap-and-trade system relating to thermal coal, and the requirement of phasing out those facilities as they reach the end of their useful, fully-amortized life,” Prentice said as quoted by the Globe and Mail.
CCS technology, if effective, is likely to remain expensive, perhaps prohibitively so, causing many countries like Canada to look to hydropower, wind turbines, and nuclear.
Two recent reports in Nature found that if the world wants to stay within ‘safe levels’ of climate change, i.e. the temperature not rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, then coal must be altogether abandoned unless CCS proves effective and only a quarter of the world’s natural gas and oil can be burned.
(02/01/2009) Wind industry jobs now outnumber those in coal mining, reports CNNMoney.
(09/26/2008) Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose at a record clip in 2007, according to the Global Carbon Project’s annual overview of the greenhouse gas.
(08/18/2008) Coal burning is contaminating the Arctic, and may be affecting human health and polar ecosystems, warn scientists writing in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.