Action, not wise words needed to combat climate change

0
74

Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

The COP-26 climate summit raised the problem of atmospheric heating to that of a major news item and global concern. The requirement to hold global temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees Celsius is internationally recognized as an urgent matter. Each and every person is affected and is expected to act appropriately. For the developed world, pollution from transportation is a major area of concern, and private vehicles are a central item of attention. Zero emission vehicles are needed and electric cars appear as the most obvious solution, but Canada lags behind other countries in adopting this mode of transportation.
There are many reasons, but it comes down to a few basic considerations. First is Canada’s
climate. Electric cars are considered to perform poorly in sub-zero temperatures. Next are economic issues. Electric cars are more expensive to buy and fossil fuel extraction is a major economic activity in Canada. The result is that electric cars account for only 3.5% of all cars on the roads in Canada. Further, two-thirds of car dealerships in Canada do not have electric vehicles for sale.
However, consider the situation in Norway. This country, like Canada, has cold winters. It also has small remote villages that are many kilometers from larger urban centres, yet 25% of cars in Norway are electric. Further, more than 50% of new car sales in 2020 were electric vehicles. Also, Norway has set a goal that by 2025, all new cars, urban buses, and light-duty commercial vehicles be zero-emission vehicles. North Sea oil was a major component of Norway’s economy. The comparison belittles the concerns Canadians have about electric vehicles.
Much of Norway’s success has to do with its tax policies. Electric cars are exempt from the 25% sales tax as well as environmental pollution taxes buyers of gas (internal combustion) cars must pay.  
In comparison, Canada has set a target for all new cars and light duty trucks sold in the country to be zero emissions by 2035 – 10 years later than Norway’s target. If Canada is to meet its 2035 target date, there will have to be significant changes in its policies. A $5,000 federal rebate has helped narrow the approximate $20,000 cost gap between conventional internal combustion cars and electric cars. The role of financial incentives is shown in increased sales in the two provinces (British Columbia and Quebec) that offer additional purchase incentives. Market share of zero emission vehicles has exceeded 10% in British Columbia and 7% in Quebec compared with 3.5% for the rest of Canada.
The federal government’s policy is to be net-zero by 2050 – meaning Canada will be completely negating the amount of greenhouse gases produced by human activity. This will be achieved by reducing emissions and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Reducing emissions from vehicles will be a major part of implementing this policy. Past efforts have failed and future success will depend on significant action on the part of the government – not just nice words.