Provinces, Feds Agree to Changes to Reduce Environmental Impact of Vehicles

The federal government is working with most of the provinces to makes changes to just about everything in an effort to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stop climate change. The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change was released last Friday following the First Ministers' meeting between the Prime Minister and the Premiers of the provinces and territories. A big part of the framework consists of changes that will affect the transportation sector, including stricter emissions standards, a federal EV incentive framework, more alternative fuels, and building more charging stations for electric vehicles.

Transportation accounts for 23 percent of Canada's emissions, most of which is cars and freight trucks. That large amount, combined with a fleet that is constantly being renewed (with old trucks and cars being replaced), means that there is a great opportunity to effect change.

Step one of the plan is to increase emissions and efficiency standards for light and heavy-duty cars. Reducing emissions at the tailpipe is a measure that has been ongoing for decades, and will likely continue. This will include things like fuel-efficient tire standards, something already implemented in the European Union. The EU regulations require tires to be labeled with a fuel-efficiency rating, with tires not performing well enough being banned. It will also include requiring fuel-saving aerodynamic devices on trucks like fairings and aerodynamic tails and will include providing incentives to use alternative fuels for large rail, aviation, and marine vehicles.

Step two is more zero-emissions vehicles on the road. Instead of the current patchwork of electric vehicle incentives, the governments are planning to work together and with the auto industry to provide a Canada-wide EV strategy by 2018. This will include building more zero-emissions infrastructure; things like more regular Level 2 (240-volt) charging stations, as well as more expensive Level 3 (480+ volt) quick charge stations. With Quebec's strict ZEV mandate enacted this fall as well as its extensive public charging network, the province expects to reduce fuel consumption by 66 million liters per year in Quebec by 2020. Which is why work on a new Ontario public charging station network have been released, with some already in operation, and 500 stations in total planned to be available by the end of March 2017.

Step three is more investment in public transit and encouraging lower-emitting modes of transport. Governments will work to build more efficient transportation corridors and will invest in hubs and ports. Moving long-distance delivery from truck to train could greatly reduce emissions and help a sector that is already having trouble finding enough drivers.

The final step is developing cleaner fuels that can help reduce emissions from all internal-combustion engines. Hydrogen, natural gas, and biofuels can all help reduce emissions from not just vehicles, but the diesel generators that power remote villages and settlements.

All of this is part of meeting Canada's target to reduce emissions to 30 percent lower than they were in 2005. The target date for this is 2030. The Pan-Canadian Framework has been agreed to by all provinces and territories, with the exceptions of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister held off on the deal over health care funding concerns, and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall refused to agree to any deal that included a carbon tax.

The plan calls for more efficient vehicles, more EVs, better public transport