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press release

Coalition of environmental groups calls for a federal ban on thermal coal exports on Earth Day

April 19, 2022

OTTAWA/TRADITIONAL, UNCEDED TERRITORY OF THE ALGONQUIN ANISHNAABEG PEOPLE – A coalition of environmental, health, and social justice groups are calling on Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault to ban the export of thermal coal from Canadian ports by 2023 and to release a roadmap of this ban on Earth Day.

Thermal coal is the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel and increases global carbon pollution putting all countries at risk from the disastrous impacts of climate change.

Despite drastically reducing the use of thermal coal domestically, in 2021 Canada exported over 16 million tonnes of American and Canadian thermal coal through the West Coast. According to the International Energy Agency, coal is “the single largest source of global temperature increase” in 2018.

Coal power generation must be reduced to 80 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030 and be phased out before 2040 in order to meet targets set out by the Paris Agreement.

This leaves no room for countries like Canada to continue their supply of thermal coal. Fortunately, the shift off of coal can happen very rapidly, given that in most of the world, renewable energy options are cheaper to build than it is to maintain existing coal power plants.

The impacts on water, the land, and ecosystems from the mining of thermal coal also causes widespread negative impacts on local communities and Indigenous nations.

The federal government has committed to ban thermal coal exports by 2030. But another eight years of supporting this harmful industry is not climate leadership and these groups are therefore calling on the federal government to ban thermal coal exports by 2023.

Over the past year, tens of thousands of people across Canada have signed petitions and sent letters to political leaders urging them to ban thermal coal exports by 2023.

The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issues a stark warning about the climate catastrophe the world faces if governments don’t take immediate action.

Specifically, the IPCC identifies that coal use must drop immediately if we want any hope of preserving a world free from climate catastrophe.

The coalition is calling on the federal government to heed the sobering warning of the IPCC and announce by Earth Day (April 22, 2022) that it will ban thermal coal exports by 2023 at the very latest and produce a roadmap to ban the export of this fossil fuel.

Fraser Thomson, Ecojustice lawyer, said:

“A ban on thermal coal by 2023 would solidify the federal government’s position as a global leader in phasing out the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world.

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has acknowledged that the atmosphere does not care where carbon is emitted, and that this pollution impacts us all.

“The federal government must act now and announce its intention to ban thermal coal exports by 2023.”

Julia Levin, National Climate Program Manager, Environmental Defence, said:

“We have the solutions and the know-how to quickly replace coal with renewable energy. The Government of Canada has an obligation to immediately stop supplying the world with dirty coal, and support countries in scaling up clean energy.”

Dr. Melissa Lem, President-Elect of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, said:

“Not only does coal burning contribute to rising emissions, but it also harms people’s health. Air pollutants from coal plants have been linked to chronic heart and respiratory disease and a host of acute ailments. Burning thermal coal is responsible for more than 800,000 premature deaths globally.”

Jesse Cardinal, Executive Director at Keepers of the Water, said:

“Thermal coal mining in Alberta is putting freshwater streams and species at risk, Indigenous people depend on these freshwater sources for their day-to-day needs, including drinking water. A greater understanding is needed of how thermal coal mining not only contributes to high levels of harmful emissions but affects entire freshwater ecosystems that help keep our water sources healthy.  Indigenous communities want to participate in a sustainable economy that won’t sell out their future generations, we demand better.”

Kiki Wood, Senior Oil and Gas Campaigner at Stand.earth said:

“Thermal coal is one of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels. Continuing to export it to the rest of the world when Canada has committed to stop burning it domestically, is unjust. Canada needs to step up to do its part to combat the climate crisis and support a transition to renewables at home and abroad.”

Dylan Penner, Climate and Social Justice Campaigner, Council of Canadians, said:

“Canada needs to stop enabling emissions through its coal exports. There’s been unprecedented grassroots opposition to coal mining over the last couple of years and a growing recognition that we need to transition away from an economy reliant on fossil fuel extraction, including coal. We need a just transition that invests in a sustainable future for workers, ecosystems, and communities, not just the profits of powerful multinational coal companies.”




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 (environmentaldefence.ca): 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.

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 and health movements. From coast to coast to coast, the organization operates throughout the country with regional committees active in most provinces and all territories.

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.

Stand.earth (formerly ForestEthics) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with offices in Canada and the United States that is known for its groundbreaking research and successful corporate and citizen engagement campaigns to create new policies and industry standards in protecting forests, advocating the rights of Indigenous peoples, and protecting the climate. Visit us at www.stand.earth and follow us on Twitter @standearth.

The Council of Canadians brings people together through collective action and grassroots organizing to challenge corporate power and advocate for people, the planet and our democracy.