By Clean Energy Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence, Équiterre and the Pembina Institute - June 2016
The transportation sector is currently responsible for 23% of Canada’s GHG emissions and offers tremendous opportunities for significant emissions reduction. To reduce emissions in the transportation sector, Canada needs to drive a transition towards zero and low-emissions transportation modes, increase the use of cleaner fuels in Canada, increase public transit ridership, and encourage denser, mixed-use communities.
In Canada, of the approximately 15.4 million people who regularly commute, 12% use public transit as their primary mode of travel. Although the share of commuters choosing public transit is significant, over 12 million Canadians choose to use cars to get to work: 74% of commuters drive a private automobile, while another 5.4% ride as passengers (1).
Improvements in the availability and efficiency of public transit, incentives for mode shifting away from solo-car rides towards auto-share, public transit and active transportation, and support to make electric vehicles more affordable would provide Canadians with concrete options to change their travel habits and do their part to tackle climate change.
Heavy-duty trucking is the fastest growing sub-sector of transportation emissions and between 1990 and 2014, freight accounted for almost 60% of the total 55 MT increase in emissions from the transport sector (2). Incentives to switch to lower emissions modes of transportation for heavy-freight and policies to reduce the emissions intensity of freight are critical to tackle this significant contributor to emissions.
Canada is lagging behind other countries in supporting zero emissions vehicles and other sustainable transportation policies. Other countries have had years of experience in advancing the electrification of transport thus offering evidence and guidance for the implementation of successful policies in Canada. The policy package recommended would ensure consistent federal, provincial and municipal policies to achieve three main objectives in the transportation sector:
1) Encourage mode shifting away from solo car rides towards public transit, auto-share and active transportation;
2) Significantly increase the market share of zero-emission vehicles sold in Canada;
3) Reduce the emissions intensity of the existing fleet of vehicles in Canada, including light and heavy freight.
This coordinated policy package would drive long-term technological innovation in the transportation sector, which will further reduce the cost of future GHG emissions reduction. In addition, investment in public transit and active transportation are progressive and equitable, providing benefits to low and middle-income Canadians. Investments in active transportation are a cost-effective way to reduce GHG emissions, can be deployed rapidly through many ‘shovel ready’ projects in communities across Canada. In addition, they will deliver significant co-benefits in terms of reduced
car fatalities, promoting an active lifestyle and reducing local air pollution. The policies recommended are administratively feasible, rely on commercially available technologies and will build on and complement existing provincial and municipal climate and transport policies.
(1) Statistics Canada. (2013). NHS in Brief: Commuting to Work—National Household Survey (NHS), 2011. (Catalogue no. 99-012-
2011003). Labour Statistics Division: Turcotte, M. Government of Canada.
(2) National Inventory Report 1990-2014: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada, Part 1, page 43