Canada is set to announce a review of its joint tailpipe emission standards with the United States, just days after the Trump administration unveiled a massive attack on its own fuel efficiency regulations, and on the authority of California and other states to set their own, tougher standards.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna was set to initiate the review with the release of a discussion paper as early as Tuesday, The Canadian Press reported Monday. A McKenna spokesperson “said the review was planned when the regulations were adopted, not as a result of the Trump move last week,” CP noted.
“We are paying close attention to the U.S. mid-term review of vehicle fuel efficiency standards and to the actions of California and other like-minded U.S. states,” said press secretary Caroline Theriault, adding that Canada would assess both the environmental and the economic impacts of the various options.
Canada and the U.S. have had harmonized fuel efficiency standards for a couple of decades, and “unless Canada scraps the existing regulations and writes its own, which could take at least two years, this country will automatically follow the American plan,” the news agency stated. “That plan, agreed to in 2012 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama, was to compel automakers to make vehicles more fuel efficient each model year between 2017 and 2025.” The Trump plan now calls for standards to be frozen at 2021 levels, a move that would increase the country’s oil consumption by about 500,000 barrels per day by the 2030s and boost its carbon emissions by up to 1.25 billion tonnes by 2035.
California and the 18 other states plus Washington, DC that set their own tailpipe standards under Section 177 of the U.S. Clean Air Act are already vowing the challenge the White House plan in a case that could go all the way to the Supreme Court. While the legal challenge unfolds, U.S automakers are expected to continue adhering to the tougher standard, an effort in which they have already invested billions of dollars.
“If California were to prevail in the likely legal clash to come, the state could set tougher standards than the federal government, leaving automakers with the prospect of manufacturing vehicles that meet different rules in different states—something the industry has said it does not want,” the Washington Post reported last week.
Similarly, “Canadian automakers don’t want Ottawa to make any final decisions on regulations here until it’s clear what will happen in the United States,” CP noted.
“The reality is because we have always followed what the U.S. has done, it makes sense to see what comes out of the other end of the U.S. regulatory review process,” said Global Automakers of Canada President David Adams.
Clean Energy Canada Policy Director Dan Woynillowicz pointed to the uncertainty surrounding the likely multi-year legal battle. “The odds of it being overturned in the courts are pretty high, but we’re not going to have those decisions for years,” he told CP.
“Woynillowicz said automakers plan six or seven years ahead and are already preparing for the existing standards, so it may be the best business policy for them to proceed as planned no matter what the U.S. does,” notes reporter Mia Rabson.
While the automakers’ Adams cited rising demand for sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks as the biggest recent change the industry has seen, Rabson also pointed to rising demand for hybrid and zero-emission vehicles. “Canada plans to unveil a zero-emission vehicles strategy sometime this year, and Woynillowicz said the American emissions standards situation may end up affecting that plan,” she wrote.