Canada moves to re-evaluate clean car standards

Source: Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Canada took the first step today toward re-evaluating its tailpipe pollution rules for cars and trucks, as the United States moves to weaken its own standards.

Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced today that her country is publishing a discussion paper to begin the process of re-evaluating greenhouse gas guidelines for light-duty vehicles.

The process, known as a midterm evaluation, will seek to determine whether the standards are still feasible for automakers, an Environment and Climate Change Canada spokesman said during a background briefing with reporters today.

In 2014, when Canada issued the standards for model years 2022 to 2025, it committed to such a midterm evaluation in 2018 — halfway between 2014 and 2022.

Some observers, advocates and industry leaders have déja vù, because a similar process just played out in the United States.

In 2011, when EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued the first car rules for model years 2022 to 2025, they also committed to a midterm evaluation in 2018 — halfway between 2011 and 2025.

After that evaluation wrapped up, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the Obama-era standards were “inappropriate” and would be revised (Greenwire, April 3).

Earlier this month, the administration unveiled a proposal that outlined a series of options for the car rules. The preferred option was freezing fuel economy targets at 2020 levels through 2026 (Greenwire, Aug. 2).

Not following U.S. lead

Canada is unlikely to follow the United States’ lead in watering down its rules.

McKenna has demonstrably strong green credentials. A member of the Canadian Liberal Party, she previously partnered with Chinese leaders on a number of clean-technology initiatives as international executive vice chairwoman of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development.

“Cleaner cars are good news for the planet, and they save Canadians money at the pump,” McKenna said in a statement today. “We’re committed to cutting pollution across the transportation sector while maintaining a strong and competitive auto industry. This review will help us enact regulations that will protect the environment and grow the economy.”

Another reason is that Canadian automakers still have to manufacture and sell cars for an international market. While the United States is weakening its standards, other countries are forging ahead with more aggressive tailpipe pollution targets.

Plus, both British Columbia and Quebec have joined the International Zero-Emission Vehicle Alliance, a global commitment to boosting the number of electric vehicles on the road, said Anup Bandivadekar, a program director at the International Council on Clean Transportation.

If Canada moved to weaken its tailpipe pollution standards, it would likely face intense pushback from those two provinces, he said.

Regardless of the outcome, the global green community will be following the process closely because it has high stakes for the climate, Bandivadekar said.

“With respect to Canada’s own climate commitment, these light-vehicle CO2 regulations represented more than half of their transport-related commitment,” he said. “So if they are to roll back with the U.S., that means there’s going to be a new shortfall in Canada’s commitment to meeting its climate goals.”