Quebec will impose California-style limits on vehicle emissions that are thought to cause global warming, officials of the Canadian province said.
A formal announcement was expected late last week.
The decision is an unexpected twist in a continentwide struggle to get automakers to build cars and trucks with lower greenhouse-gas emissions. That generally means vehicles that use less fuel.
Faced with a reluctant federal government in Washington, environmental groups had hoped to use actions by U.S. states and the Canadian government to pressure the North American industry.
Until last week, the Canadian part of the strategy appeared to be unraveling.
A newly elected conservative government backtracked on Canada's plans to comply with a global-warming treaty known as the Kyoto accord. And environmentalists raised new doubts that a voluntary agreement by automakers to reduce emissions in Canada will have much impact.
"It's mathematical hijinks," says John Bennett, senior energy policy adviser for the Sierra Club of Canada. He says the industry is taking too much credit for reducing tailpipe pollution, which is a result of using less fuel. Fuel savings is occurring only because consumers are reacting to high gasoline prices, he adds.
If prices drop, Bennett says, "all the gains we're making will be gone."