Health Benefits from a Canada-Wide Coal Phase-Out

In collaboration with CAPE and nine other health organizations, energy think tank the Pembina Institute has released a new report titled “Out with the coal, in with the new: National benefits of an accelerated phase-out of coal-fired power”. This report estimates the air pollution-related health benefits associated with a Canada-wide phase-out of coal-fired power plants by 2030.

There are currently 14 coal plants operating in Canada: six in Alberta, three in Saskatchewan, four in Nova Scotia, and one in New Brunswick.  These plants are significant emitters of air pollutants, mercury that contaminates fish, and greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

In 2012, Environment Canada found that coal regulations, which limit carbon dioxide emissions from these plants or require their closure after 50 years of operation, would produce $4.9 billion in health benefits over a 20-year period by improving air quality in several provinces.

When the Pembina Institute extrapolated those health benefits to a 2030 phase-out date, it found that the health benefits would be doubled producing an additional $5 billion in health benefits over a 20-year period by further improving air quality.

In 2014 alone, the study found that these 14 coal-fired power plants were responsible for approximately 163 premature deaths and 141 hospital admissions or emergency room visits.  These health impacts, along with other related impacts, were valued at approximately $816,000,000.


While these health benefits would be realized in the four provinces that operate coal-fired power plants, the provinces downwind of them – Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Prince Edward Island – would also experience improved air quality and reduced health impacts.  The report notes that greatest health benefits would be realized in the prairies because of the heavy use of coal plants in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The report notes that substantial health benefits would also result from the elimination of mercury emissions from these coal plants.  The 2030 phase-out would also cut Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 8.5% and make Canada a role model for other countries around the world.

Click here to read the full report or download a two-page summary factsheet.

Click here to view the press release.

Prepared by Kim Perrotta, MHSc, Executive Director, CAPE, November 21, 2016