Weaver is confident a mandate requiring a percentage of auto sales to be ZEVs – with penalties for falling short – is in the cards, with reason.
His three-member legislative caucus props up the minority New Democrat government in the legislature via a “confidence and supply agreement.” That agreement, which keeps the government from falling, requires implementation of a climate action strategy to meet the B.C. target of a 40 per cent reduction in GHG emissions from 2007 levels by 2030.
Weaver, a leading climate scientist before entering politics, said he is deeply involved in developing the strategy. He meets regularly with Environment Minister George Heyman while his staff sits down with bureaucrats shaping the plan.
“We’ve been working very closely on this file,” he said, adding Heyman supports a mandate. “We meet all the time on this and I’m convinced one of those areas is going to be a ZEV standard.”
If it’s not enacted immediately the government will signal one is on the horizon, allowing the auto sector a year or two to prepare, Weaver explained.
Quebec passed a legislated ZEV mandate effective January 2018, joining California and 10 other U.S. states. It sets escalating annual quotas for battery-electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles sales. If they fall short, OEMs must buy expensive credits to make up the difference.
Ontario has a voluntary program tied to eligibility for generous buyer incentives. It could be in jeopardy after the election of a green-unfriendly Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives.
Automakers dislike ZEV mandates, arguing they distort the market and add costs often passed to customers.
Advocates argue growing Canadian demand for ZEVs is creating shortages as OEMs allocate production to other markets, especially those with ZEV mandates.
The B.C. government is developing an energy “roadmap,” a spokesman said via email.
“British Columbia’s support for clean energy transportation will be detailed as elements of the roadmap are announced,” said Kent Karemaker of the B.C. Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, the department responsible for the current ZEV incentive program.
The mandate proposal has been on the B.C. government’s shelf for a decade. It was recommended by the previous Liberal government’s independent climate advisory council but never implemented. It’s supported by the current council.
“I think we need to combine the ZEV mandate with the [recharging] infrastructure, with the incentives and consumer education,” said Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada, who sat on the previous advisory council and co-chairs the present one. “Those are the four pieces of the puzzle.”
Draft policy proposals are expected to go out for consultation over the summer, the first chance B.C.’s auto sector will get to weigh in.
“Well, we’ll wait and see,” Blair Qualey, president of the New Car Dealers Association of B.C., said with a sigh “I still have faith that common sense will prevail and the government won’t just do one because other jurisdictions have.”
Qualey disputes claims B.C. suffers EV product shortages because OEMs are allocating units to places with ZEV mandates.
“‘Prove that to me,’ is what I’d say,” he countered. “You show me that somebody in British Columbia has not been able to get a vehicle because of a ZEV mandate in another jurisdiction.”