Coal-fired power worsening health and climate nation-wide

New report from doctors, health and environment groups call on federal government to phase-out coal nationally by 2030

OTTAWA —A national coal phase-out by 2030 would prevent over a thousand premature deaths across Canada and result in billions of dollars in health benefits, according to a new report from the Pembina Institute and a coalition of health and environment organizations. A federal policy commitment of this nature would double health benefits compared to the existing federal phase-out timeline, and would make an important contribution to the upcoming pan-Canadian climate plan.

Out with the coal, in with the new: national benefits of an accelerated phase-out of coal fired power, finds that pollutants from coal-fired power traveling across provinces affect the health of populations in both coal-burning and non-coal-burning provinces. Air pollutants from coal plants are known to produce heart and lung diseases, aggravate asthma and increase premature deaths and hospital admissions.  Coal plants are also a significant source of mercury that is harmful to children exposed during pregnancy and in early life.  

A national phase-out of coal-fired power is a critical piece of an effective pan-Canadian climate plan, not only for the significant greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, but for the health and economic co-benefits it would secure nationwide. By advancing a national phase-out by 2030, Canada would join a growing number of jurisdictions, including provincial leaders in Alberta and Ontario, as well as the United Kingdom, Austria and the states of New York and Oregon.

Quick facts

  • A national phase-out of coal-fired power by 2030 would avoid 1,008 premature deaths, 871 emergency room visits, and produce nearly $5 billion in benefits between 2015 and 2035.
  • Coal-fired power represents over 70% of emissions in Canada’s electricity sector, while providing only 11% of the country’s electricity.
  • The electricity sector is responsible for approximately 12% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Currently, there are 35 coal power units across Canada, in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia
  • According to the Government of Canada, in 2014, coal plants were 10 of  the top 17 sources of sulphur dioxide in Canada, 10 of the 14 top sources of  nitrogen oxides, and 3 of the top 5 sources of mercury.   


“Because of its potential to reduce carbon pollution and avoid negative health and economic outcomes, a national coal phase-out is a foundational element of credible long-term climate action. In order to live up to its commitment outlined in the Paris Agreement, Canada must rapidly clean up its electricity grid and replace fossil fuel combustion with clean electricity. We expect an accelerated phase-out of coal-fired power by 2030 to be a critical piece of the upcoming pan-Canadian climate plan.”
— Erin Flanagan, federal policy director, Pembina Institute

“By closing Canada’s remaining coal-fired power plants by 2030, we can improve the health and well-being of thousands of Canadians by improving air quality from Alberta to the Maritimes.  By closing these plants, we will save lives, prevent chronic heart and lung diseases, make breathing easier for those with asthma, while saving health care costs by reducing emergency room visits and hospital admissions. This is climate action that will produce many immediate co-benefits.” 
— Kim Perrotta, executive director, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment

“Public support for ending coal use is enormous. People know burning coal poisons the air and leads to health problems, particularly for children and the elderly. And they understand it contributes to climate change. In 2005, Ontario had 53 days with smog warnings. In 2014, after the province's last coal plant closed, there were zero smog days."
— Gideon Forman, climate change and transportation policy analyst, David Suzuki Foundation

“The scientific evidence on the destructive health effects of coal pollution is clear; it has been associated with myriad health issues, such as cancer, autism, miscarriages and poor lung and brain development in children. The federal government has the opportunity to reduce the ongoing serious damage being inflicted on the health of taxpayers as a result of coal-fired power plants. By tightening federal regulations on coal-fired power plants, the Government of Canada can take an important step towards creating the healthy energy environment that will protect the health of Canadians today and provide a stable climate for the future.”
— Ian Culbert, executive director, Canadian Public Health Association


Visit the Pembina Institute’s website to download a copy of Out with the coal, in with the new


Kelly O’Connor
Communications Lead, Pembina Institute
(416) 220-8804 |

Kim Perrotta
Executive Director, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
(905) 320-8710 |

Gideon Forman
Climate Change and Transportation Policy Analyst, David Suzuki Foundation
(647) 703-5957|

Emma Mallach
Communications Manager, Canadian Public Health Association
(613) 725.3769 ext. 160  | (613) 914.1151  |

Vanessa Foran
President and CEO, Asthma Society of Canada
(416) 787-4050 ext. 102 |

Barb McKinnon
President and CEO, New Brunswick Lung Association


Submission: Building a pan-Canadian climate plan (June 2016)

Report: Breathing in the benefits: How an accelerated coal phase-out can reduce health impacts and costs to Albertans (September 2016)

Submission: Modernizing Canada’s electricity systems: A pan-Canadian electrification strategy to cut carbon pollution (July 2016)

Report: A costly diagnosis: Subsidizing coal power with Albertans’ health (March 2013)

Regional Spokespeople

Benjamin Israel (English / français)
Advisor, Pembina Institute
(403) 269-3344 ext. 103 |

Dr. Joe Vipond (English / français)
Emergency Physician and member of Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
(403) 510-9236 |

Dr. Mark Bigland-Pritchard
Clean power and coal exit campaign coordinator, Climate Justice Saskatoon
(306) 827 7431 | 

Dr. Wanda Martin
President, Saskatchewan Public Health Association
(306) 966-5429 |

Dr. Ryan Meili
Executive Director, Upstream
(306) 270-7521

Barbara McElgunn
Health Policy Advisor, Learning Disabilities Association of Canada
(416) 281 9676 |

Marion Zych
Director of Communications, Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO)
(647) 406-5605

Karel Mayrand
Director General, Quebec and Atlantic Canada, David Suzuki Foundation
(514) 871-4932 ext.1451 |

New Brunswick:
Dr. Louise Comeau
Director, Climate Change and Energy Solutions, Conservation Council of New Brunswick
(506) 238-0355 |

Nova Scotia:
Stephen Thomas
Energy Campaign Coordinator, Ecology Action Centre
(902) 441-7136 |

Get our Pembina Perspectives

Pembina Perspectives provides thoughtful, evidence-based research and analysis to support action on climate — in your inbox every two weeks.

We endeavour to protect your confidentiality; read our full privacy policy.