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Coal phase out will lead to healthier Albertans: CAPE

Last Updated Dec 3, 2016 at 5:36 pm MDT

Many Albertans have been left on edge, thanks to the federal and provincial plans to phase out coal power plants and mines by 2030.

However, Kim Perrotta, executive director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), believes phasing out coal will have many benefits, especially to our health.

“Climate change is already causing a lot of death and disease and ailments around the world, we just aren’t really aware of that,” Perrotta said. “In terms of climate change, I know a lot of people think of it as an environmental issue, but for those of us who are in the health and public health sectors, we think it is the public health crisis of the century.”

That’s because, according to medical journal The Lancet, climate change causes around 150,000 deaths each year. The World Health Organization expects that annual number to increase to 250,000 by 2030.

But a new report by the Pembina Institute shows the phase out of coal would prevent more than 1,000 premature deaths and 900 hospital visits.

The report also estimates Canadians could see savings of $5 billion in health care costs, with Alberta getting $3 billion of that amount by the time coal is no longer used.

Along with better health, Perrotta said Alberta’s economy won’t actually suffer, thanks to renewable energy moving in to replace coal. And the Pembina report backs up Perrotta’s claims.

“They actually found that the new technologies (…) all of those things will actually create more jobs than those that are actually being lost from coal-fire power plants and coal mining.”

Perrotta believes for everything to workout economically, it’s important for everyone to work together and make sure the switch to renewables is well-managed.

“The people who are currently in those (coal) jobs, we have to make sure that those people are re-trained, or that there are very good packages for those people who maybe are very close to the end of their careers, and make certain that those people are harmed as little as possible by these changes.”

Perrotta added, renewable energies, including solar and wind power, are becoming more cost-effective and internationally used.