Age of green cars arrives as Canadians cut emissions

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The Independent US

Cars that are environmentally friendly may be coming to drivers in North America faster than anyone expected after the Canadian government pledged this week to a dramatic 25 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from all vehicles sold inside its borders by the end of the decade.

Cars that are environmentally friendly may be coming to drivers in North America faster than anyone expected after the Canadian government pledged this week to a dramatic 25 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from all vehicles sold inside its borders by the end of the decade.

In so doing, Canada is joining California and seven north-eastern US states, including New Jersey and New York, in seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which means the stricter limits will eventuallyapply to about one third of the North American car market. This should be enough to ensure that the entire North American market is governed by the standards within a few years.

The pledge from Ottawa will add to the pressure on the North American automotive industry to develop vehicles that meet higher emission standards of gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. About a third of the greenhouse gas emissions thought to contribute to global warming in the US come from motor vehicles.

"We're very clear where we want to go," John Efford, Canada's Natural Resources minister, told The New York Times yesterday. "Twenty-five per cent is our goal and the auto industry clearly understands that."

California already has air quality standards that are stricter than those set at the federal level in the US and has just passed even tougher regulations that will require a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from cars by 2016. Earlier this month, officials from the seven north-eastern states with stricter limits indicated they would follow suit.

The Canadian announcements coincided with a visit to Ottawa by Fran Pavley, the member of the Californian legislature who pushed through the tougher regulations in September. She said that the leadership her state is providing on the issue was surprising. "The rest of the world depends on California to push the agenda, push the envelope," she said.

Certainly, that push is not coming from Washington. The stricter limits are coming in spite of President George Bush, who is sceptical about the science of emissions.

For the automotive industry, the decision by Canada is more bad news. Canada produces about 2.5 million vehicles a year and sells about 1.5 million within its borders. While supporters of greener cars say the technology required will add about $1,000 (£540) to the price of the average car, the manufacturers insist the additional cost will be about $3,000.

Mark Nantais, the president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association, said: "It means that roughly 95 per cent of the passenger cars in Canada won't make the cut."

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