Vancouver remains the leading exporter of coal in North America. Figures show that Vancouver exported 37.6 million tonnes of coal in 2018, almost a million more than 2017.And one of the biggest markets in coal exports is India, according to the 2018 Statistics Overview on the Port of Vancouver website.The report shows that 3.6 million tonnes of cargo containing metallurgical coal was shipped to India from Vancouver, up 33 percent from 2017 when 2.7 million tonnes of cargo was shipped.It also shows that India has started importing thermal coal from Vancouver starting in 2018, with 162,224 tonnes of cargo received.Coal, both metallurgical and thermal, is mined in British Columbia and Alberta, and both release heavy carbon emissions when burned.
Tipper trucks transport coal at the Kirshnapatnam Co. port in Kirshnapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India, on Monday, June 15, 2015.
Prashanth Vishwanathan /
Metallurgical coal is mainly used for steel-making, while thermal coal is used for generating electricity, making it more harmful to the environment because of the sulphur, carbon dioxide and methane released.“I think one can make an argument against the export of thermal coal — that thermal coal is a big problem around the world in terms of increasing use, particularly in China and India,” said Werner Antweiler, an economist and trade expert at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.“They have not been able to cut down on the use of coal to combat climate change, but that finger also points at the United States and some European countries that are not relinquishing the use of thermal coal as quickly as they probably could or should.”B.C. produces 80 to 90 percent of the metallurgical coal that it ships and the remaining 10 percent produced is thermal coal.“It doesn’t make a difference where carbon dioxide is concerned but it does make a difference where local pollution is concerned,” Antweiler says of the two types of coal.
Indian commuters drive amidst heavy smog along a busy road past the South Extension area of New Delhi on December 6, 2018.
Xavier Galiana /
In a country with a growing population such as India, air pollution is becoming a bigger issue.In a Lancet Planetary Health study published in December 2018, it was reported that India had the “worst levels globally” of air pollution. According to the findings, there were 1.24 million deaths in India in 2017, and 12.5 percent of the deaths were attributable to air pollution— with 0.67 million of those deaths resulting from outdoor air pollution such as smoke, gas or fumes.Meanwhile, Vancouver is on a mission to reduce its carbon footprint after opposing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion from Alberta.In a press release from Environment and Climate Change Canada on the Government of Canada website, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, praised B.C.’s climate change action.“By pricing pollution, supporting energy-efficiency measures, and investing in our forests and in new infrastructure to manage waste, British Columbians can be proud that their governments are creating the tools needed so that everyone can play a role in reducing greenhouse gas pollution,” McKenna says.
An undated aerial photo of the Pine Valley Mining Corp’s coal at Neptune Terminals in Vancouver.
Ministry of Energy and Mines
A step B.C. is taking includes putting in place a number of programs in an effort to lower the carbon emissions in B.C. One of them includes turning to alternative sources of renewable energy to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. As part of the Clean B.C. Plan, the supply of renewable fuels will be increased by using “forest and municipal organic waste” to provide cleaner fuels.Antweiler understands there is a tension between environmental concerns in B.C. and the economic opportunities that arise from oil, natural gas, and coal.For thermal coal, countries in the European Union look to British Columbia, while the steel industry market looks to British Columbia for exports of metallurgical coal.“They specialize in coal and Vancouver is a very important contributor to economic development in places like India and China,” Antweiler says.In terms of the increasing use of coal in India, there are systems currently in progress that deal with the environmental consequences of using coal including carbon pricing in China in their carbon trade systems. Antweiler says it’s a good reason to look at their overall use of coal and the percentage of electricity production.“China and India are particularly problematic destinations for coal simply because they rely so heavily on coal for electricity generation.”