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National organizations call for an end to thermal coal exports during COP26


The groups are delivering petitions today, with a total of 32,220 signatures, asking that the federal government ban all coal exports by 2023.

Ottawa | Unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg People – As world leaders gather in Glasgow for COP26, the UN climate conference, organizations from across Canada are calling on the government to accelerate its promise to ban all thermal coal exports by 2023 instead of 2030.

Today, these groups are delivering multiple petitions to the Prime Minister’s Office, with more than 30,000 signatories demanding immediate action to phase out thermal coal exports from and through Canada by 2023. (To view photos from the petition delivery, click here after 10am ET).

The overarching aim for COP26 is to “keep 1.5 degrees alive.” Rapidly ending coal power — the single largest source of global temperature increase — is a critical step the world must take to achieve the 1.5-degree goal.

The petitions, collected and submitted by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Council of Canadians, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, Keepers of the Water, LeadNow, and Stand.Earth, call for the federal government to commit to an accelerated coal export ban during the COP26 conference.

“Canada wants to be a global climate leader but continues to mine and export thermal coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel,” said Julia Levin, Senior Climate and Energy Program Manager at Environmental Defence. “Coal causes serious health impacts to people and communities where it is mined, transported and burned, while its massive emissions are terrible for the planet. With world leaders gathered at COP26, we are calling on the Government of Canada to honour their commitment to a greener future by making coal a relic of the past.”

During the election campaign, the government pledged to end the export of thermal coal. However, the timeline they set for themselves – 2030 – is not commensurate with the urgency of the climate crisis.

“As a co-founder of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, Canada cannot credibly ask other countries to move beyond coal while it continues to export thermal coal overseas,” Fraser Thomson, lawyer at Ecojustice said. “Banning thermal coal exports by 2023 would show that Canada is serious about helping the world power past coal.”

While the federal government has committed to ending coal-fired power generation by 2030, Canada continues to facilitate the burning of coal overseas through its exports. Each year, the country exports 15-18 million tons of Canadian and American thermal coal. Once consumed, this amount can produce between 33-40 million tonnes of CO2e every year, the equivalent of approximately eight million passenger vehicles.

“As an Indigenous-led organization, we reject false solutions and delay tactics in addressing the climate crisis,” said Jesse Cardinal, Executive Director of Keepers of the Water. “Canada’s posturing as an opponent to coal while it continues to export this fossil fuel elsewhere is one such tactic. All parts of Mother Earth are interconnected. Burning coal anywhere is a threat to the health of the whole planet.”

Thermal coal is the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel, generating half of the world’s carbon emissions, accelerating the climate crisis, wreaking havoc on the environment, and causing at least 800,000 deaths every year.

“We have recognized here at home that we should not subject communities to the health impacts from burning coal for electricity, which include asthma, cancer, brain damage, and premature death,” said Anjali Helferty, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. “If we claim to value the health and lives of people around the world, we cannot continue to export coal overseas.”

“Canada must stop enabling emissions through its coal exports,” added Christina Kruszewski, the Prairies-NWT Regional Organizer at the Council of Canadians. “We’ve already seen unprecedented grassroots opposition to coal mining over the last year and a half, particularly in Alberta. We know all about the impacts of coal mining on Indigenous rights, communities, water, and the climate. Now is the time to move Canada beyond coal for good.”

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The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) is a physician-directed non-profit organization working to secure human health by protecting the planet. Since its founding in 1993, CAPE’s work has achieved substantial policy victories in collaboration with many partners in the environmental movement. From coast to coast to coast, the organization operates throughout the country with regional committees active in most provinces and all territories.

Since 1985, the Council of Canadians has brought people together through collective action and grassroots organizing to challenge corporate power and advocate for people, the planet, and our democracy.

Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.

Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

Keepers of the Water is comprised of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples; environmental groups; concerned citizens; and communities working together for the protection of air, water and land – and thus, for all living things today and tomorrow in the Arctic Drainage Basin.

Leadnow organizes campaigns that build and defend a just, sustainable, and equitable Canada. We help hundreds of thousands of people take action at the times and in the places that matter most by providing non-partisan opportunities for digital and real life democratic engagement. (formerly ForestEthics) is an international nonprofit environmental organization working to create a world where respect for people and the environment comes first. Our campaigns challenge destructive corporate and governmental practices, demand accountability, and create solutions that support all of us — and the environment and climate upon which we depend.