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The Globe and Mail

Ottawa rolls out aggressive emission standards for cars before tense climate talks

Environment Minister Peter Kent , right, and Director Environmental/Energy for GM Canada Bryan Swift arrive to take part in a press conference at a car dealership in Ottawa on Tuesday November 27, 2012.


On the eve of global climate talks that will put Canada's contentious policies under the microscope, Ottawa has introduced its next set of rules to cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks.

Under regulations proposed on Tuesday, vehicles built between 2017 and 2025 will be required to cut emissions by an average of five per cent a year, every year.

Environment Minister Peter Kent said these rules should cut average gasoline costs by about $900 per auto.

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The regulations are designed to match U.S. standards first proposed more than a year ago and will build on existing regulations that cover models built between 2011 and 2016.

"We will see emissions at 50 per cent of what they were in 2008," Mr. Kent said in an interview.

Light trucks won't have to meet the new standards as quickly as cars because manufacturers need extra time to make sure they can perform the work required by the farmers and construction workers who drive them, Environment Canada said in a background document.

The announcement comes more than a year after the United States announced a similar plan, but the timing is no accident. Mr. Kent leaves this weekend for a week of climate change talks in Doha that, as usual, will put him on the defensive.

"We wanted to make the announcement before Doha because it is another step forward in our sector-by-sector approach," he said.

While the Harper government has been vociferous in its attack against other approaches to controlling emissions, Canada's policy of regulating industry by industry has drawn scorn not just from environmentalists but also other countries.

In Canada, the federal environmental commissioner and the now-defunct National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy have both said this approach is not enough to meet the country's 2020 emissions target.

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Environmental organizations say Canada lacks credibility at the bargaining table as countries seek to replace the expiring Kyoto protocol with another binding international treaty to limit global warming.

But Mr. Kent said he will tackle his critics head-on in Doha.

"There's an awful lot of misinformation out there and no little amount of disinformation about Canada's commitment towards climate change, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation," he said. "We'll be meeting with the media, we'll be meeting with our colleagues in the major economies' forum, to talk about the things we are doing.

"We'll refresh the memory of folks who don't know or who don't want to know that our sector-by-sector approach has taken us halfway to our 2020 targets."

But Mr. Kent will not be taking any promises of money to the United Nations talks in Doha.

The top UN climate official as well as many environmental groups are pleading with developed countries to live up to a commitment to help poor countries deal with and prevent more climate change.

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Time has run out for a $30-billion, three-year global fund that was meant to kick-start a larger $100-billion-a-year fund partly financed by the private sector. But the larger fund is still empty.

No one should expect the Doha talks to change that, Mr. Kent said.

"This isn't a pledging conference," he said, adding that he will make that clear at the meetings.

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