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Learning from Ontario’s coal phase-out campaign

In 2014, the last coal-fired electricity station in Ontario was shut down, eliminating a significant source of air pollution in the province. Lessons from the 17-year campaign leading up to this moment are captured in a new report, Ontario’s Coal Phase Out, from former Metcalf grantee Ontario Clean Air Alliance. The report explores a range of themes and reflects on key lessons learned, including:

  • Framing an effective argument about both the need to phase out coal and how it could be replace.
  • Building alliances with a wide range of groups and individuals to build a societal consensus around the need to phase out coal.
  • Framing a “reasonable” alternative the made sense to the average Ontarian and was easily understandable (“cost of a cup of coffee and a doughnut a month”).
  • Presenting the move away from coal as a phased “transition” and incrementally moving to a call for a full phase out to keep the campaign in sync with evolving public opinion.
  • Rigorously and regularly quantifying the impacts of coal burning, from health costs to acid rain and mercury contamination.
  • Finding the right messenger.
  • Taking advantage of a changing political landscape.
  • Bouncing back from setbacks and seeing the challenge through.
  • Taking the long view.
  • Create an opportunity for bold political leadership.

Learn more about these lessons learned, the campaign’s history, and key leaders that championed the phase out here.

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