Kent unveils new rules to cut heavy-duty vehicle emissions

Environment Minister Peter Kent has announced new regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from heavy-duty vehicles that will bring Canadian regulations in step with those of the U.S. within a few years.
Environment Minister Peter Kent announced new regulations Friday for heavy-truck emissions that will bring Canada inline with California emissions by 2016. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Environment Minister Peter Kent has announced new regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from heavy-duty vehicles.

The government hopes these regulations will lower emissions from long-haul tractor trailers and large pick-up trucks by 23 per cent by 2018.

"Today's announcement means that, by the year 2020, greenhouse gas emissions from Canada's heavy-duty vehicles will be reduced by 3 million tonnes per year. This is equivalent to removing 650,000 personal vehicles from the road," said Kent in a news release.

The new standards will affect the manufacture of full-size pickup trucks, farm machinery and larger vehicles ranging from buses to garbage trucks to dump trucks, according to remarks Kent was delivering Friday in Boucherville, Que. Kent said the new regulations can be met by using existing technologies for fuel efficiency, aerodynamics and idle-reduction.

The proposed regulations, which are subject to a 60-day public consultation period, will be officially published in the Canada Gazette later Friday.

Environmentalists were generally happy with the announcement.

"It's good to see the government finally moving to catch up with the U.S. in curbing pollution from heavy trucks. There are significant opportunities to reduce emissions and increase performance, which is good for the climate, the economy and the air we breathe," P.J. Partington of the Pembina Institute wrote in an email to CBC News.

The new regulations for heavy-duty trucks are the next phase in the government's plan to control GHGs from vehicles.

The government's rules for small trucks and passenger vehicles came into force last year. Those rules harmonized Canada's regulations with those of the United States. The regulations will get stricter with time so that by 2016, Canada's rules will be in line with California's.

Transportation is responsible for 24 per cent of Canada's GHG emissions.

Friday's announcement is another piece of the government's sector-by-sector approach to controlling GHG emissions.

Ottawa announced regulations for coal-fired power plant emissions last year. It has yet to announce anything for the oil and gas industry, which is the fastest growing source of GHGs in Canada.

Many economists and most environmentalists argue that a sector-by-sector approach to regulating GHGs is the least efficient and most cumbersome way of reducing emissions.

Economists such as the University of Calgary's Jack Mintz prefer a carbon tax as a way to control emissions, suggesting this type of broadly-based levy is good for both the economy and the environment.

But the government prefers sector-by-sector because it is more systematic and makes it easier to align Canada's policies with those of the U.S.