It’s a sentence that feels weird to write: by 2030, Alberta will have shuttered the 18 coal-fired power plants that currently generate around 55 per cent of the province’s electricity, with two-thirds of that power replaced by renewable sources.
The stunning move was announced as part of Alberta’s climate change policy framework that was released on Sunday. According to the government, only 12 of the 18 coal-fired power stations would have been phased out by 2030 under the previous arrangement.
The immediate health benefits of such a move are tremendous.
Kim Perrotta, executive director at Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), says that coal accounts annually for an estimated 107 premature deaths, 80 hospital visits and almost 5,000 asthma-related sick days in Alberta, costing the province around $300 million.
Prior to the government’s announcement, over 40 organizations — including the Alberta Medical Association and Asthma Society of Canada — made a joint call for an accelerated phase-out on health grounds.
“We see the air quality benefits that are fairly immediate that would be felt by the people in Alberta,” Perrotta says. “But we also want to reaffirm that as an organization run by physicians, we actually believe climate change is the public health challenge of the century. So we think this is a huge win for public health in terms of the the immediate benefit for Albertans but also for the long-term benefits for public health around the globe.”
Coal is responsible for 17 per cent of Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions and six per cent of emissions nationwide.