Canada's Environment Minister announces new regulatory measures for vehicles and fuels

Last week, Canada’s Minister of the Environment, Leona Aglukkaq, announced three new regulatory initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve the environmental performance of both the light- and heavy-duty vehicle fleets in Canada.

The first announcement was that Environment Canada will be formally publishing the final GHG regulation for model year 2017 and beyond passenger cars and light trucks on October 8th. These standards are designed to be as closely aligned to the US regulation as possible, as there is precedent for harmonizing the environmental policies for the vehicle sector of the two countries, since the two markets are so closely integrated. Like the US program, Canada’s regulation will drive significant efficiency improvements in the fleet and result in up to 50% reduction in per-vehicle fuel consumption and GHG emissions compared to a model year 2008 vehicle. The total savings for Canada over the lifetime of model year 2017–2025 vehicles are estimated to be 174 million metric tons, which is roughly equivalent to the annual GHG emissions from the entire Canadian transport sector.

In addition to this major initiative to control GHG emissions, Canada’s passenger car fleet will also be subject to a significant tightening of criteria pollutant emission levels. On September 27, Environment Canada will be publishing its proposal to adopt Tier 3 emission standards, which will cut smog-forming emissions by up to 80% compared to current Tier 2 levels and mandate the average sulfur levels in gasoline be cut to 10 parts per million (ppm), down from today’s standard of 30 ppm. As with the light-duty GHG program, this regulation will also be harmonized with the Tier 3 standards in the US. Coupling strengthened tailpipe and evaporative emissions standards with low-sulfur gasoline will be a major boon to air quality across Canada, as vehicle emissions are a major contributor to harmful air contaminants.

Finally, Minister Aglukkaq announced a notice of intent that Canada will begin its official process of developing the second phase of GHG standards for heavy-duty trucks and buses. As with light-duty vehicles, and in the spirit of harmonization, Environment Canada is working in close partnership with regulators in the US to develop and refine test procedures, evaluate the technology potential and costs for the post-2020 timeframe, and coordinate outreach to various stakeholders.

One particularly interesting and potentially new area for regulation in the Phase 2 program for heavy-duty vehicles is the commercial trailer space. The EPA and NHTSA are currently considering bringing trailers into the regulatory fold, given the surge in uptake of fuel-saving technologies for trailers in recent years that has been motivated by a number of factors, including California’s tractor-trailer GHG regulation, the SmartWay program, and the improved quality and efficacy of technology. As part of an effort to study the trailer market in Canada and investigate the current adoption rates and costs of trailer fuel-saving technologies, Environment Canada is currently funding a study, which is being lead by the ICCT, in collaboration with Pollution Probe, a leading environmental not-for-profit organization headquartered in Toronto. This project is currently underway and is schedule to be completed by the end of 2014.