OTTAWA—Canada has cast its lot with California on vehicle emissions regulations, setting the stage for a split with the U.S. federal government if the Trump administration follows through on a proposal to weaken rules that dictate the fuel economy of vehicles sold in North America over the coming years.
In a joint conference call with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced a new agreement to collaborate with the state on regulations to slash greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles in the two jurisdictions.
The deal comes as the United States federal government considers whether to weaken national vehicle emissions standards that have been in harmony with Canadian regulations since 2011. The prospect has alarmed environmentalists who consider the standards a key climate achievement of Barack Obama’s presidency, and has raised concerns of a regulatory rift in an auto industry that has been integrated across the Canada-U.S. border since the 1960s.
“It looks like there will be two standards in effect in the U.S. That’s certainly not anybody’s first choice. Competitiveness is incredibly important, and I think having an integrated market with one standard would be preferable,” McKenna said Wednesday.
“But, you know, look — if there are two choices in the U.S., our focus is really how about how do we get meaningful cuts to climate pollution.”
The federal governments in Canada and the U.S. have worked together on vehicle emissions rules for more than a decade. Since 2011, regulations for emissions from new automobiles and light trucks have been aligned, creating a uniform standard for those vehicles across the Canada-U.S. auto industry.
Those standards were set to increase each year until 2025, so that new models would have to keep getting more fuel efficient. McKenna said Wednesday that, according to the current standards, a new light duty vehicle in 2025 will need to burn 50 per cent less fuel than a 2008 model.
McKenna said Wednesday’s agreement with California is meant to ensure emissions standards continue to get more stringent every year, but she and Newsom did not rule out the possibility that the U.S. federal changes could match their ambitions and still allow for a regulatory harmony across the two countries. They said 13 other U.S. states have signalled they intend to stick with California on stricter standards, even if the Trump administration pulls back on the federal regulations. MORE