Transport Canada is setting a new date for when new cars and trucks will be required to be net-zero in a clear sign to the auto industry that the era of gas-guzzlers is coming to an end.
Ottawa is setting a “mandatory target” that all new light-duty cars and passenger truck sales be zero emissions by 2035. That target is five years earlier from its previous 2040 goal, and the federal government intends to set interim 2025 and 2030 targets to steer the transition.
“Through measures aimed at accelerating the transition to 100 per cent zero-emission vehicles sales, we will continue building a cleaner and more-resilient economy, while also creating good jobs and opportunities for all Canadians,” said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra in a statement Tuesday.
Clean Energy Canada welcomed the news, but said more details are needed to understand how the goal will be achieved.
“Implemented measures — as opposed to just targets — are vital. They’re the difference between good intentions and actual action,” said Clean Energy Canada senior policy adviser Joanna Kyriazis in a statement.
“That Canada will move forward its target of ensuring all car sales are for zero-emission vehicles by 2035 is certainly a step in the right direction — and aligns the country with other leading jurisdictions like California and Quebec that also have 2035 deadlines,” she added.
In its announcement, Ottawa also said it was working to align vehicle GHG emission regulations with the United States, but stopped short of specific details.
Kyriazis said the solution to getting more electric vehicles on the road is to implement an EV standard that forces automakers to sell more EVs over time.
“We also know that getting more Canadians in EVs — from cars to buses — is critical to building out Canada’s fast-growing electric vehicle manufacturing sector. If we want to be leaders in building EVs and their batteries, we need to grow the market for them at home,” she said.
Environmental Defence also applauded the federal government’s new target, but said that as a developed country and major contributor to climate change, Canada should pursue an earlier date to require 100 per cent EV sales.
In a recent report, Environmental Defence found that 3.5 per cent of new vehicles sold in Canada are electric, while four out of every five are SUVs, pickups, or vans. The group found that over the past decade, increasing SUV sales added 18 million tonnes more of carbon emissions than what would have been emitted by standard-sized cars.
The auto industry spends 28 times more on advertising for vehicles with combustion engines than for electric vehicles (EVs), a 2019 Sierra Club study showed. And an Environmental Defence analysis found that over the next five years, GM and Ford are planning to build over five million gas-powered SUVs and trucks, compared to about 320,000 electric vehicles.
The report called on Ottawa to implement a strict national zero-emission vehicle standard, financial incentives to EV buyers, and new taxes on the sale of trucks and SUVs to accelerate a clean transition.
John Woodside, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer