Opinion: SUVs are killing the planet – and pedestrians. Why do Canadians continue to drive them?

When I moved to Canada from Germany with my two-year-old, car-obsessed son, he was delighted to find himself in the garden of automotive delights. Not only did the range of brands extend well beyond the five he knew by heart from our cobblestoned Berlin neighbourhood, the Canadian vehicles were so much bigger. As he rightly pointed out, they weren’t even cars. One of his first English words was “SUV.”

That was 10 years ago, but Canada’s affection for the sports utility vehicle has only grown. Since 1990, the ratio of passenger cars (sedans, compacts, sports cars) to light trucks (SUVs, pickup trucks and vans) in this country has flipped; the larger vehicle segment has advanced from less than one-third to more than two-thirds of the non-commercial vehicle market.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Canada now boasts the largest market share of light trucks in the world. And with it come other chart-toppers: Of all 53 countries covered in the IEA’s latest report, Canada’s vehicles are, on average and for every kilometer driven, the highest in both fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emission.