Media releases

How Canada can cut carbon pollution and revitalize its auto sector: report

VANCOUVER — Canada has a car conundrum. Canadians drive the most polluting cars in the world due in part to a growing appetite for SUVs and trucks, and over the past 20 years, domestic carbon pollution from transportation has increased by nearly 30%. 

Over that same two-decade period, the number of vehicles being manufactured locally has fallen by 37%. Once a global top-five auto manufacturer, Canada now doesn’t even crack the top 10.

In short, transportation emissions are up, and the auto manufacturing sector is down.

The good news: our car conundrum also has a solution, one explored in a new Clean Energy Canada report released today. Taking the Wheel finds that, with a deliberate approach for drivers and industry, zero-emission vehicles can both cut pollution and set our auto sector up to compete in the global economy.

Already, most Canadians lean toward an electric car for their next vehicle purchase, but most car dealerships in the country don’t have a single EV available to test drive or purchase.

And while Fiat Chrysler and Ford Motor laid out plans this fall to build EVs in Ontario, prior to these announcements, an analysis of 29 global automakers had identified US$300 billion flowing into EV development with not a single dollar destined for Canada.

Canada has the workforce and geographic strengths to be an EV leader but is lacking a roadmap to get us there. An industrial strategy and a package of policies to drive long-term investment in and the adoption of zero-emission vehicles could reposition Canada in the global EV race, the new report concludes.

The federal government last month made its national pollution targets legally binding. But with transportation responsible for a quarter of these emissions, it will be hard to meet targets without addressing Canada’s car conundrum. A comprehensive approach could be a win-win for our economy and our climate.


  • Canada is the 12th-largest vehicle producer in the world but significantly trails other countries on electric vehicles. Canada accounts for 2.2% of light-duty vehicles made globally but only 0.4% for EVs. 
  • Replacing gas vehicles with electric ones in B.C., Alberta, and Ontario today would reduce their emissions between 34% and 98% (factoring in both the pollution from driving a gas car and pollution from the electricity grid that charges the EV), and between 46% and 87% by 2050, according to the Sustainable Transportation Action Research Team at Simon Fraser University.
  • Canada has light-duty zero-emission vehicle sales targets of 10% by 2025, 30% by 2030, and 100% by 2040—but existing policy is not sufficient to meet these targets
  • More than a dozen countries around the world have announced plans to phase out the sale of new fossil-fuel-powered cars by 2050 or earlier, as have B.C. and Quebec.
  • In September, California’s governor signed an executive order requiring all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks sold in California to be zero-emission by 2035. Shortly after, New York and New Jersey set similar goals.


Report | Taking the Wheel

Op-ed | “Ottawa wants more electric vehicle manufacturing in Canada. What will it take?” (Toronto Star)

Media Brief | What is a ‘zero-emission vehicle standard’ and why does Canada need one?

Print this article