Quebec's increase in SUVs threaten environmental targets, report shows

The report reveals that while the number of car sales has fallen by 28 per cent since 1990, SUV and truck sales have increased by 246 per cent.

While the number of car sales has fallen by 28 per cent since 1990, SUV and truck sales are way up

'We are going in the wrong direction,' said the report's co-author, Pierre-Olivier Pineau. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Quebecers are buying more SUVs, trucks and pickups than ever before — a trend that is hurting the province's efforts at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to a recently released report.

Published by business school HEC Montréal, the report reveals that while the number of car sales has fallen by 28 per cent since 1990, SUV and truck sales have increased by 246 per cent.

That consumer shift to SUVs is something the sales manager at Chevrolet Buick GMC West Island is seeing firsthand.

"That's pretty much all we're selling," Oren Weizman told CBC Montreal's Daybreak. "That's all they want." 

This trend is also seen with leases, he added, as Montreal motorists want larger interiors, improved visibility and four-wheel drive. And, he said, manufacturers are conjuring up cost-cutting rebates that seal the deal for consumers.

But in opting for larger vehicles, motorists are jeopardizing the province's chances of meeting its Paris climate accord targets, which require reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 37.5 per cent, compared to 1990 levels, by 2030.

"We are going in the wrong direction when we should actually get off oil and change ways of energy consumption," said the report's co-author, Pierre-Olivier Pineau, a professor in energy-sector management at HEC.  

Quebec consumers buy about 450,000 vehicles a year, but more than 250,000 of those sales are trucks, pickups and SUVs, he said.

"People don't want cars anymore," Pineau told CBC's Daybreak. "Fuel consumption is also going up, but it is not going up as much as the number of SUVs because, of course, SUVs have become more fuel efficient."

However, the overall increase in the amount vehicles on the road has bumped up gas sales by 13 per cent in the last five years, he said.

Pineau recommends public policy that rewards people for using public transit while increasing taxes on gas and gas-guzzling vehicles.

"In that way, we would not only do good for the environment, but people would actually save money," he said. "These cars and SUVs cost everyone a lot, and they need a lot of gasoline."

Premier François Legault says he is committed to meeting Quebec's 2030 Paris targets. He has cast doubt, though, on whether the province can meet the previous government's goal of reducing emissions 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.


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