Calling it a “huge opportunity,” and noting that Canada is the first country to do so, Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced this week that Canada has signed an international initiative known as the Drive to Zero Pledge.
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The pledge – which has been around since September 2018 – is an international initiative designed to promote the growth of the zero-emission and near-zero-emission medium-and heavy-duty vehicle sector, including everything from school buses to semi-trucks.
McKenna made the announcement at Drive to Zero’s workshop at the 10th Clean Energy Ministerial and Fourth Mission Innovation Ministerial (CEM10/MI-4) in Vancouver, which was co-hosted by Clean Energy Canada, and held at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
“It’s so important that we look at our medium, and heavy-duty vehicles,” she said.
She announced the signing in conjunction with the release of a full report by the Advisory Council on Climate Action.
The report recommends steps the government can take to reduce carbon pollution in
two crucial areas: the transportation sector and the building sector, which together account for over a third of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.
During an interview with Daily Hive following the announcement and release of the report, McKenna said it’s “great to have incredible Canadians that are helping us out – looking at how can the government be more ambitious when it comes to taking climate action.”
The minister said she’s confident in the findings of the report, and those who put it together.
“They looked at world-class standards, they talked to Canadian companies, and businesses, as well as governments, to see what was going on,” she said. “They also have a lot of experience.”
McKenna said what she “really likes” about the report is that “it’s very practical stuff, based on what actually works,” as well as “what the market failures and opportunities are.”
The report, she explained, “is intended to say ‘okay, what are the next steps? What are the other opportunities?'”
Canada has its climate plan “that we negotiated over a year with provinces and territories, as well as Indigenous Peoples who were certainly holding provinces to account for what they committed to – including putting a price on pollution,” she furthered.
Before the release of the final report, she said, “there was an interim report that talked about some things that we might be able to do as government before the election. We took that advice, and one of those things was a zero-emission vehicle incentive.”
McKenna called the incentive “something very practical for Canadians,” adding that she believes there is “a lot of interest in electric vehicles.”
However, she said, “cost is still a factor. There is still a cost differential, and so making sure that we’re bridging that to lower the cost [with] incentives that can be matched with provincial incentives.”
But there’s more to it than just the vehicles, she added.
“What sometimes doesn’t get the same attention is the fact that for business owners, you can write off your fleet of zero-emission vehicles in your first year,” she explained.
When it comes to future building and housing projects, “one of the things that was in the report was talking about the need for better information so that we can support builders who may be thinking about this, but don’t really understand the benefits,” she said.
Speaking about the release of the full report, McKenna said she believes it’s “a longer-term thing for the government.”
She noted that while there are only a few months before the next federal election, she said the idea is that “whoever forms the next government” is able to take the report and look at what needs to be done an what the next steps are.
“These are very, very, practical things,” she added. “It’s not always about government investments or regulations.”