Tesla's new rival is now America's second most valuable car company, Doug Ford really needs to pick a lane, and an adult-sized electric train


Week two of COP26

COP26 wrapped up two eventful weeks of global climate pledges with a mix of good and bad news. While the climate summit ended late on Saturday with an agreement endorsed by nearly 200 countries, coined the Glasgow Climate Pact, wording proposed by Britain to accelerate the phaseout of coal power and fossil fuel subsidies was watered down in negotiations, leaving the door open for coal power with carbon capture and potentially some fossil fuel subsidies. India further weakened the wording on Saturday to "phasing down" coal rather than completely phasing it out. As Canadian environment minister Steven Guilbeault put it, while Canada's engagement in COP negotiations has improved in recent years, "My country is the very incarnation of why we need strong language in this text.”

On the good news front, the world's two biggest emitters, China and the U.S., surprised everyone with an announcement last week that they would collaborate on reducing emissions together—a promising turn of events given their barbed back-and-forths only a week earlier. While Canada has nearly kicked its coal habit, the same cannot be said of the U.S. and China. They have much to discuss.

But so do we. While Canadians can feel good about our nearly diminished coal emissions, our oil and gas sector remains the perennial elephant in the room. Prime Minister Trudeau reiterated at the conference his recent election promise that Canada will imminently cap oil and gas emissions and mandate they decrease over time—an idea that's now supported by nearly two-thirds of Canadians.

More COP commitments: EV edition

Continuing with the good news side of things, 24 countries and a number of top automakers committed to ending the sale of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles by 2040. A slightly smaller number of nations that included Canada also agreed to the same timeline for trucks and buses.

Can Rivian rival Tesla?

And speaking of electric vehicles, electric truck maker Rivian debuted on the stock market last week and promptly became America's second most valuable car company after Tesla. Rivian's $100-billion valuation may seem a little high for a company with no sales revenue yet, but with big backers like Ford and Amazon, this is no small startup.

Pick a lane

In the same week that Tesla announced the company is opening a Canadian battery gear factory in Markham, Ontario, Premier Doug Ford rightly declared that Canada's biggest province has the right ingredients to become a North American electric vehicle manufacturing leader. And yet Ford is still against EV rebates, saying he doesn't want to give money to "millionaires." For a province that almost certainly has more millionaires than any other, Ontario continues to lag far behind on EV sales (3% of car sales are currently for EVs in Ontario, compared to 13% in B.C. and 10% in Quebec). The reality is that, as Plug'n Drive CEO Cara Clairman put it, "Many EVs cost less than a pick-up truck." Rebates simply make EVs more accessible to people who aren't, you know, millionaires. 

Supply problems

Speaking to CBC, my Clean Energy Canada colleague Joanna Kyriazis had some good advice for Premier Ford: "If we can get more Canadians driving electric vehicles, it’ll also help to justify automakers investing in Canada to build EVs here and their batteries." A national zero-emission vehicle standard would help boost supply in provinces that don't already have such a policy in place (like Ontario).

Targets vs. action

Canada will not increase its 2030 climate target next year, reports the Toronto Star. Canada increased its target earlier this year to a 40% to 45% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels. Environment minister Guilbeault said his focus now is on implementation, arguing that Canada's climate plan is "more developed than many of our partners." Independent modelling has shown that Canada's plan, if implemented quickly, could indeed achieve a 40% reduction in emissions. But there's no time to waste and no room for compromises.

The land of opportunity

Amazon is opening a major server hub near Calgary, the tech company announced, citing access to renewable power as a key reason. Alberta has some of the best solar and wind power resources in the country. Clean Energy Canada executive director Merran Smith has more to say about Alberta's changing economy in this new podcast from RBC.

The other coal

B.C. is a major exporter of coal—only not the kind used to produce power. Metallurgical coal, used in steelmaking, may not be maligned as much as its thermal cousin, but its use still contributes to the climate crisis: steel production is responsible for roughly 7% of global emissions. Ramping up the production of clean hydrogen, coal's eventual replacement, is key.

General Fusion expands

Vancouver's General Fusion will open its new U.S. headquarters in Tennessee, where the cleantech company expects to create up to 50 new jobs. Established two decades ago, General Fusion's goal is to produce commercially viable, on-demand fusion power to complement renewables like wind and solar.

A classic, redefined

Last week, we brought you an electric plane. This week, we leave you with an electric train. CN just announced the purchase of a battery-electric freight locomotive from Wabtec—part of the rail company's efforts to reduce freight transportation emissions.

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Clean Energy Review is a weekly digest of climate and clean energy news and insight from across Canada and around the world.

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