Ottawa, carmakers reach Kyoto deal

The federal government and car companies have agreed on emissions standards.

The federal government and car companies have agreed on emissions standards.

New vehicles will cut emissions by 5.3 megatonnes by 2010 as part of Ottawa's plans to meet Canada's Kyoto targets.

That's about four per cent of the estimated 137,000 kilotonnes produced by road transportation in 2002, the Environment Canada website shows.

The 137,000 kilotonnes includes 50,200 kilotonnes from cars, 40,900 from gasoline-powered light trucks and 39,600 from heavy diesel trucks. Total Canadian emissions from all sources were 731,000 kilotonnes in 2002.

While details are awaiting a joint government-industry announcement, manufacturers apparently did not agree to the 25 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency of new cars that the government was originally seeking.

With the deal Wednesday, Ottawa has confirmed another part of its Kyoto plan to reduce greenhouse gases. The full plan is now expected in April.

"I'm very pleased I will have the megatonnes that I need for the Kyoto plan and also it is very good for the economy because we are late in North America regarding our competitiveness, regarding energy efficiency," Environment Minister Stéphane Dion said.

Carmakers will reduce emissions by improving things like air conditioning, and building more alternative fuel vehicles.

"I would say this is a deal of epic proportions," auto consultant Dennis DesRosiers said.

The deal may be hard for automakers to meet because the companies can build all the fuel efficient cars they want, but they can't force people to buy them.

"Consumers may just chose to buy used or to keep their existing vehicle longer," and that will hurt the environment, he said.

The Sierra Club gives Ottawa full marks for getting a deal, but spokesman John Bennett wonders how it can force car companies to keep their promise.

"Because it's voluntary, we have no way of enforcing it. It's basically a handshake between industry and government."

The auto companies wanted Ottawa to cut emissions by providing buyers with "financial incentives" to purchase fuel-saving vehicles.

Citing government figures, the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association also warned on its website that Kyoto could cost 40,000 to 80,000 industry jobs, although the losses were not connected with a specific emissions cut.