Tailpipe Emissions and Other Important Messages
Minister Prentice announced on April 1 that Canada would be implementing new "tailpipe" emissions standards for vehicles built in the 2011 model year. The announcement confirmed Canada's intention to address climate change domestically and signalled its commitment to work in concert with the United States on reductions of greenhouse gases continentally.
The current CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standard for cars is 27.5 miles per gallon. Changes to the American standards would raise the fuel economy for cars to 30.2 miles per gallon for the 2011 model year and 24.1 miles per gallon for trucks, for an average standard of 27.3 mpg. These standards are a first step to address vehicle emissions in the United States. The goal will be a combined standard of 35 mpg by 2020.
Canada does not require automakers to adhere to these standards - rather Canadian manufacturers and importers are guided by a voluntary standard which is closely aligned with CAFE. Wednesday's announcement means that the emissions standard will no longer be voluntary, but regulated. Minister Prentice remarked:
"The new U.S. fuel economy standards will have an impact across the North American automotive industry - especially Canada. We don't trade vehicles with the Americans so much as we build vehicles together. In this relationship, Canada punches way above its weight. We produce between 15 and 20 percent of North America's vehicles. Approximately 80% of new vehicles manufactured in our country are exported to the U.S."
Minister Prentice confirmed that Canada's mandatory standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are going to be "consistent with the national fuel economy standards set by our largest trading partner". On-going alignment with U.S. standards will be ensured.
In addition further demonstrating the Canada plans to work with the United States to address climate change, there are two important messages in the announcement.
Firstly, the development of vehicle emissions standards for the 2011 model year is one of the many components found in the Conservative government's Turning the Corner action plan to address climate change. This announcement signals the federal government's intention to implement Turning the Corner.
Secondly, the tool being employed to manage auto emissions is the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) and not new legislation. CEPA is a federal statute which provides, among other things, the authority for the government to introduce regulations to govern vehicle emissions. Section 160(1)(a) of CEPA specifically provides that the Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, make regulations respecting emissions and prescribing standards in relation to emissions. CEPA is a broad environmental statute, which has, as Minister Prentice observed, the "flexibility that will let us harmonize with the broad range of possible future actions from the U.S. government".
Does this mean that other federal climate change initiatives found in Turning the Corner will also be addressed using CEPA? In his concluding remarks, Minister Prentice referred to further Canadian action on climate change: "In the coming months, you will also see us move decisively on the other major contributors - including electricity generation, and industrial production, including oil and gas".