March 11, 2019 – Ottawa, Ontario
As we make the transition to cleaner energy, protecting coal workers and coal communities needs to be at front and centre of that transition. Pollution from coal has major repercussions on our environment and health. Phasing out coal power generation in Canada will protect the air we breathe, eliminating 12.8 million tonnes of carbon pollution from our atmosphere in 2030. This will also help the country avoid an estimated 260 premature deaths, 40 000 asthma episodes and 190 000 days of breathing difficulty for Canadians everywhere.
Today, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, welcomed the final report from the independent Just Transition Task Force.
Over the last year, the Just Transition Task Force met with coal workers, their families, communities, and labour representatives. Their report provides expert advice that will help shape Canada’s approach to assisting Canadians and communities affected by the phase-out of traditional coal-fired electricity. The report includes 10 recommendations to support workers and their communities through the transition. The work of the Task Force will help lay the foundation for a just transition away from traditional coal electricity.
“Phasing out coal is a necessary step to ensure the health of Canadians and the protection of our environment. At the same time, the Government of Canada needs to support workers, families, and communities who rely on coal through this transition. Canadians are at the centre of Canada’s climate policies which is why the work of the Task Force is critical to ensure a successful transition. I thank the task force for their incredible work, and we are reviewing their recommendations carefully.”
– Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
“The Just Transition Task Force consultations with coal workers, communities and stakeholders provides the Government of Canada a better understanding about how to best support coal workers and their communities. We are committed to working hand in hand with the provinces, stakeholders and impacted communities to offer programs and services that will help affected workers to quickly transition to new careers.”
– The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour
“The recommendations of the Just Transition Task Force’s engagement with affected workers and communities are rooted in ensuring that Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy promotes viable and healthy communities. Our regional development agencies are working with affected provinces and communities to create opportunities for good jobs and a sustainable economy.”
– Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister Responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Western Economic Diversification Canada.
“Our Government is committed to supporting workers as our economy shifts to a low-carbon future. Phasing out coal is an important component of a greener and healthier future for Canada but we must ensure that it is fair for affected workers and communities.”
– Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Natural Resources
“I was honoured to meet with workers and communities, to learn about their jobs and their lives, and hear directly about what they need to make this transition away from coal-fired power, a just transition. Our Task Force Report puts people and communities at the heart of climate action. Canada’s unions look forward to working with the Government to ensure meaningful action on implementing these much needed recommendations.”
– Hassan Yussuff, Task Force Co-Chair and President of the Canadian Labour Congress
“I am so pleased with the participation from communities, mayors, councillors and interested citizens from northern New Brunswick to southern Alberta. Planning for the shift toward renewable energy makes sure these communities once heavily invested in coal join the most competitive economies of today who are maintaining jobs and creating new opportunities in the fast-growing energy-efficient and renewable energy sectors.”
– Lois Corbett, Task Force Co-Chair and Executive Director, Conservation Council of New Brunswick
In an effort to better understand the impacts of phasing out coal and to support those affected, the Government launched the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities in April 2018.
On January 11, 2019, Prime Minister Trudeau announced $25.6 million in funding for Canada’s first geothermal power facility near Estevan, Saskatchewan, – an area that will be impacted by Canada’s coal phase-out. The project will create 100 jobs during construction, provide the provincial power grid with clean, renewable energy, and create new business opportunities for local communities.
As part of Budget 2018, Canada announced $35 million in funding to support skills development and economic diversification for workers and communities in the affected coal regions. Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency are implementing the Canada Coal Transition Initiative.
In November 2018, Canada announced funding to create two transition centres in the communities of Forestburg and Castor, Alberta, marking the first project supported through Budget 2018’s Canada Coal Transition Initiative. These centres will provide former coal miners, generating station workers and community members in the Battler River Region with new employment and business support, training programs and entrepreneurial development services.
In 2016, there were between 3,500 to 5,000 workers at coal-fired generating stations and domestic thermal coal mines. Some coal-fired electricity generating facilities plan to convert to run on natural gas, and will continue to operate and employ staff.
Seventy-six percent of the carbon pollution from Canada’s electricity sector comes from coal-fired electricity.
Coal-fired electricity generation facilities are among the world’s largest sources of air pollution, including sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and mercury pollutants, which have significant health and environmental impacts. For example, before Ontario completed its phase-out in 2014, coal emissions were a major source of air pollution that contributed to 53 smog days in Toronto alone in 2005.
A complementary report detailing what the Task Force heard during their discussions with Canadians in Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia was also published.