BC coal report card: 2012 saw record climate failures

BC is failing spectacularly on the single most critical climate task facing humanity: reducing the amount of coal extracted and burned each year.

Instead, 2012 saw BC's coal extraction rise to record levels -- while BC's coal ports expanded even faster to meet surging demand from desperate USA coal mines to offshore their thermal coal.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) just published a special report, "Redrawing the Energy Climate Map", that calls for "urgent action" now to cut back on coal while we still have a chance to prevent dangerous climate changes.

To have a shot at a safe future, the IEA say that coal production needs fall by 1.6 percent per year through 2035. All told, society will need to act to shift $4.2 trillion in revenue from a declining coal industry into rapidly growing energy efficiency and clean energy industries. Production of thermal coal used to generate electricity must be cut in half by 2035. Production of coking (aka "metallurgical") coal used to create steel also needs to decline.

Unfortunately, BC is doing the opposite of what is needed, as this quick report card shows:

BC COAL EXTRACTION -- all-time record

  • BC coal extraction rose to an all-time record of 29 million tonnes, according to BC's Ministry of Energy stats.
  • Up to 18 new coal mines and expansion projects are proposed, many of which are in the approval process.
  • Climate grade: failure for not reducing coal extraction over time as needed.

CLIMATE DAMAGE FROM BC COAL -- all-time record

  • Record levels of coal extraction leads to record levels of coal pollution. Extracting, shipping and burning BC coal last year released an all-time record of an estimated 66 million tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2).
  • As my chart below shows, that 66 MtCO2 caused a record $2.3 billion in "monetized damages" to society last year. That is according to the latest "social cost of carbon" calculations from the United States government which I wrote about recently. Over $2 billion of that damage was not paid for by the producers or users of BC's coal. (note: click chart to view larger)

  • Climate grade: failure for not reducing climate damage from BC coal.

TOO BIG TO IGNORE -- but government still does

  • The climate damage from BC coal (66 MtCO2) exceeded the climate damage from burning all fossil fuels inside BC (49 MtCO2). Coal has become the largest source of climate damage in the BC economy.  
  • At a national level, the climate pollution from BC's coal last year (66 MtCO2) exceeded the emissions of 160 nations. Nations with smaller CO2 emissions include Portugal, Ireland, New Zealand and Sweden.
  • BC government exempts almost all this climate pollution from climate policies, studies and targets. The BC government also exempts BC coal from paying our Carbon Tax: a $2 billion loss to tax payers. But our government's biggest failure is their refusal to address the most critical requirement for a safe climate -- that coal extraction start to decline.
  • Climate grade: failure for ignoring BC coal in climate policies.

More in Climate Snapshot

"Carbon tsunami" lead by Enbridge Northern Gateway takes aim at BC

A flood of mega-carbon projects threaten to quickly turn British Columbia into one of the world's dirtiest economies.

Car Carbon series: cool new animation, plus the jaw-dropping impact it left out

What weighs sixteen billion pounds yet hides in plain sight?
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.