Transportation is responsible for more than 26 per cent of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions. Unless we reverse some of the following trends in vehicle use, transportation emissions will continue to rise.
- Canadian vehicle ownership per capita is now double what it was in 1960.
- The number of kilometres driven per capita is now double 1960 levels in Canada.
- At the same time, freight has shifted from fuel-efficient rail to gas-guzzling trucks.
The single biggest source of the massive increase in greenhouse gas emissions in transportation is passenger vehicles—cars and light-duty trucks. The popularity of sports utility vehicles, trucks and minivan has had a highly negative impact on average fuel efficiency.
The David Suzuki Foundation applauds the federal government's recent plan to implement fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, and proposes the following additional measures to reduce transportation emissions:
- Gradually introduce tax increases on gasoline and diesel to reflect their real environmental and health costs. European transportation fuels cost two to three times more than Canada's, and consumption is one third less. Over the long term such taxes encourage the purchase of fuel-efficient vehicles and reduce unnecessary driving. Tax income should support transportation alternatives such as efficient, convenient transit and bicycle infrastructure while allowing reductions to sales, payroll or income taxes.
- Strengthen support for public transit, car-pool programs, cycling infrastructure and other sustainable transport options.
- Require a mandatory renewable-energy content of five per cent, such as lignocellulosic ethanol (made from straw, corn husks, forest residue, etc.), to replace some of the gasoline Canadians use.
- Lower and enforce speed limits to reduce fuel consumption. There is an enormous increase in fuel use at higher speeds.
- Encourage the movement of freight by rail rather than by road, as rail is much more fuel efficient.
- Canadians should be encouraged to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles through financial incentives provided by the government.
- Prioritize sustainable transportation solutions and infrastructure over freeway expansion.
While fuel cells are touted as the pollution-free power source for automobiles, some fuel-cell processes (i.e., those that use fossil fuels to produce hydrogen) result in greenhouse gas emissions. Fuel cells have tremendous potential but only if their fuel source provides the best options for carbon dioxide reductions.