Backing into cleaner cars?

And now, for some good news about the fight against global warming. No, really.

By Katharine Mieszkowski
Published March 24, 2005 12:32AM (EST)

And now, for some good news about the fight against global warming. No, really.

Canada announced today that it reached an agreement with automakers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks by 5.3 million tons by 2010. Under the agreement, automakers pledged to reduce emissions 25 percent from 1995 levels, according to Reuters. The new deal for Canada is similar to California's greenhouse gas emissions law, which automakers are currently fighting in court.

"This agreement is a breakthrough because it will both cut global warming emissions in Canada, and set the stage for similar reductions in the United States," said Daniel Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global warming program in a statement. "Right now, California and seven eastern states either have, or are in the process of adopting clean car laws. With the addition of Canada, one-third of the North American auto market will have to meet California's tougher emissions rules. The automakers will find it financially impossible to make one clean set of cars for eight states and Canada, and a dirty set for the rest. Eight plus one equals 50."

Becker savored the contradiction: "With this agreement, the automakers unilaterally disarm from their long-standing position that they cannot make clean cars. In fact, they have sued to overturn the California Clean Car Law which is the basis for Canada's action. The auto companies are now in the awkward position of telling a judge that they cannot make the same cars in California that they will make in Canada.

"Automakers have long claimed they cannot cut global warming emissions -- and won't. Now they are promising Canada that they will. The automakers have now lost their last excuse for inaction. It is time for the automakers to bring the benefits of clean cars to Americans, and do in the U.S. what they have promised to do abroad."

Maybe the actions of our neighbors to the north will result in cleaner cars being sold here, even if the best our federal government can muster is letting hybrid drivers use the carpool lane.

Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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