Canada mandates new car and passenger truck sales to be 100 per cent zero-emission by 2035
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Jun 29, 2021
Luke Sarabia

In a major announcement featuring three cabinet ministers in three provinces, the federal government says it is making 100 per cent ZEV sales mandatory by 2035 to meet Canada’s national net-zero targets, bringing the national market goal in line with Quebec and California pledges

The Government of Canada says it will pursue a combination of investments and regulations to help Canadians and industry achieve 100 percent zero-emission vehicle sales by 2035

In a major announcement featuring three cabinet ministers in three provinces, the federal government says it is making 100 per cent ZEV sales mandatory by 2035 to meet Canada’s national net-zero targets, bringing the national market goal in line with Quebec and California pledges

Canada’s federal government is replacing its voluntary target for achieving 100 per cent zero-emission new car and light-truck sales with a mandatory requirement and moving up the deadline by five years, to 2035 from 2040.

The joint announcement came today from Transport minister Omar Alghabra, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson and Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault. During the press conference Alghabra cited, as a catalyst for the announcement, a recent report from the International Energy Agency that says by 2035 all, new light-duty vehicle sales worldwide need to be electric to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

“Cutting our transportation emissions is one of the most readily achievable and economically beneficial paths Canada can take on the road to net-zero emissions by 2050. That’s why we are committed to aligning Canada’s zero-emission vehicles sales targets with those of the most ambitious North American jurisdictions,” added Wilkinson.

The ministers said the government will pursue a combination of investments and regulations in order to meet the goal and will also work with partners to develop interim 2025 and 2030 targets.

Wilkinson also stressed the shift from a voluntary target to a mandatory target. “That means that we need to be thinking about regulatory mechanisms as well as incentives,” he said. Among the potential “supply side” mechanisms he cited was “a ZEV mandate.”

The measures ultimately chosen, said Wilkinson, “will ensure that we are going to meet this target. It is a mandatory target.”

The new initiative puts Canada in line with ZEV sales targets in California and Quebec. A number of countries, however, including the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark have adopted a more ambitious 2030 target; Norway has committed to 100 per cent ZEV sales by 2025.

Environmental, economic gains

Many industry players praised the government’s move for the beneficial impact it will have on reducing emissions as well as the boost it could provide to Canada’s clean economy.

“This is a great day for electric mobility and is a clear indication of how serious the Government of Canada is about the future of ZEV adoption and clean mobility,” said Daniel Breton, president and CEO of Electric Mobility Canada, in an organizational release. “Not only will these measures help Canada reach their climate change goals, they will also help create high paying, high quality sustainable jobs of the future for Canadian workers.”

Travis Allan, vice president of public affairs & general counsel at FLO, told Electric Economy Canada he believes ambitious national ZEV policies will give Canadian companies a chance to demonstrate their expertise with the eyes of the world watching. And it’s not just national talent that will be on display — other countries will be looking to learn from Canadian policies and the success of our approach.

“A clear, binding target, with strong and transparent interim 2025 and 2030 targets, is critical to give the market and consumers guidance. To be successful, this target will need to be supported by meaningful regulations that ensure it is achieved and significant investments in education, vehicle incentives and charging stations to ensure that all Canadians feel confident adopting EVs,” writes Allan in an e-mail.

“Government and industry both have a lot of work to do.”

Ambition welcome, but action needed

To date, the federal government has signalled zero-emission mobility is a growing priority. Significant investments have been made in encouraging Canadians to transition, including $587 million towards incentives under the Zero-Emission Vehicles Program (iZEV)and more than $460 million to support the construction of national charging infrastructure.

Some feel, however, that more action is required in order to make the new ZEV target a reality.

“I think the real question is what is the plan to get to that target?,” wrote David Adams, president of Global Automakers of Canada, in response to questions from Electric Autonomy Canada. “We are currently sitting at about five per cent of new vehicle sales being ZEV, so it may be a bit of a reach to go from five per cent to 100 per cent in 14 years’ time.”

Adams noted that the announcement, in addition to “lacking in the details that will be required for Canada to successfully make the transition to 100 [per cent] ZEV sales by 2035,” was not specific about whether Canada’s definition of ZEVs would include plug-in hybrid vehicles, as the UK’s does.

Brian Kingston, president and CEO of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturer’s Association, also noted in a statement that meeting the target “requires ambitious policy actions from government” that hit on the four pillars of adoption: incentives, education, supply and infrastructure.

But overall, the impression seems to be the government is open to dialogue with stakeholders and that, while the plan to get from A to Z may not be fully worked out, the appetite for ambitious policy changes and collaborative strategies is there.

“We look forward to working with the responsible departments on the important next steps of designing and implementing the regulatory and funding mechanisms that will be needed to achieve these very important commitments,” said Breton.

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