Canadian Government and Automakers Reach Deal on Cutting Emissions
TORONTO The Canadian government has averted a battle with automakers by reaching a voluntary deal that would cut greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles by 25 percent from 1995 levels over the next five years, in keeping with the Kyoto accord.
Natural Resources Minister John Efford told Parliament on Wednesday that the government will sign a memorandum of understanding with the heads of Canada's two auto manufacturing associations in the next few weeks that will cut emissions by 5.3 million tons by 2010.
Efford confirmed the pact in the House of Commons, but declined to give any more details or say when the deal would be formally signed.
"No, no, I'm not going to give any details today except the fact that we have reached an agreement with the auto industry and we're very proud of that -- and it's good for Canadians and it's good for the auto industry," Effort told reporters.
The Globe and Mail newspaper said the deal would see automakers cut greenhouse emissions -- caused by vehicles burning fossil fuel and by operating air conditioners -- by developing and deploying fuel-efficient technologies; producing more alternative fuel and gas-electric vehicles; and launching efforts to encourage Canadians to buy fuel-efficient vehicles.
Environment Minister Stephane Dion had previously threatened to impose emissions limits on automakers if a voluntary deal could not be reached.
Automakers directly employ about 60,000 Canadians, but are a key engine of the economy, especially in Ontario, where all the head offices and assembly plants are located. The industry accounts for 12 percent of Canada's manufacturing gross domestic product.
The U.S. environmental group Sierra Club called the agreement "historic."
"This agreement is a breakthrough because it will both cut global warming emissions in Canada, and set the stage for similar reductions in the United States," said Dan Becker, Washington director of the Sierra Club's global warming program.
"Right now, California and seven eastern states either have, or are in the process of adopting clean car laws," Becker said. "With the addition of Canada, one-third of the North American auto market will have to meet California's tougher emissions rules."
He said automakers, therefore, would find it financially difficult to make one set of clean cars for eight states and Canada and "a dirty set for the rest."
California adopted strict regulations last September which require the auto industry to cut exhaust from cars and light trucks by 25 percent by 2016.
Opposition parties in Ottawa, however, say the deal doesn't go far enough, noting that the proposed emissions cuts are only voluntary.
"We believe that mandatory emissions reduction standards such as they have in California is what Canada should have done," said New Democrat Leader Jack Layton.
"There's been lots of voluntary commitments around without any teeth and our pollution has gone up considerably instead of down," he said. "In fact, we believe we've just given the big U.S. auto companies a tool for attacking the emissions standards in California."
Source: Associated Press