Canada’s federal government is moving forward with plans to reduce emissions from the electricity sector.

Environment minister Peter Kent has announced proposed regulations that will apply a stringent performance standard to new coal-fired power plants and coal-fired units that have reached the end of their economic life.

The move is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and “improve air quality for all Canadians for generations to come”, said Kent in a statement.

The new Canadian standard will be based on parity with the emissions performance of high-efficiency natural gas generation. The standard will promote the replacement of coal-fired units that are reaching the end of their economic life, and will encourage investment in cleaner generation technologies, such as high efficiency natural gas generation and renewable energy, as well as the use of carbon capture and storage.

“This is great news for the carbon capture and storage (CCS) industry because it eliminates regulatory uncertainty in Canada,” said Carmen Dybwad, CEO of IPAC-CO2 Research Inc., which provides independent performance assessments of CCS projects.

The proposed regulations could come in to force by mid-2015. Together with other measures taken by the federal and provincial governments, they are projected to result in a decline in the absolute levels of greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector of 31 megatonnes between 2005 and 2020.

“Our strategy to lower our emissions is based on making improvements sector by sector to sustain our economy and protect our environment,” said Kent. “We are taking action in the electricity sector because we recognize the potential for significant emissions reductions.

“We are committed to build on our strength in the electricity sector and to lead the world in clean electricity generation.”

Canada has set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020.