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Building electric cars in Canada is key to reaching climate goals, recharging auto industry

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This column is an opinion by Merran Smith and Sarah Petrevan. Smith is the executive director and Petrevan the policy director of Clean Energy Canada, a climate and clean energy program within the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

Canada has a car conundrum. Our transportation emissions are up, and our auto manufacturing sector is down. While these two challenges might sound only tangentially related, they share a common solution.

Let’s start with the problem. According to the International Energy Agency, Canadians drive the most polluting cars in the world. Literally, when it comes to tailpipe emissions, we take the global top spot. Over the past 20 years, carbon pollution from transportation has increased by nearly 30 per cent thanks to a growing appetite for SUVs and trucks.

Over that same two-decade period, vehicle manufacturing in Canada fell by 37 per cent or more than one million vehicles a year. Once a global top-five vehicle manufacturer, Canada now doesn’t even crack the top 10.

So, that’s the conundrum: pollution from the vehicles we drive is increasing, while the auto sector has been shifting to other shores. It’s a bad news story for both our environment and our economy.

But while various causes explain these challenges, a singular solution exists to overcome them both: zero-emission vehicles.

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