Ahead of the United Nations’ climate change conference COP21 in Paris beginning at the end of the month, a new report has found that Canada is unlikely to achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission levels in road transportation from 1990 levels by 2050.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has suggested that developed countries reduce their emissions by 80% relative to 1990 levels in order to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, explained a statement released on Thursday by the Conference Board of Canada (CBC). However, Canada’s road transport emissions were 40% higher in 2013 than in 1990, the statement said, adding that between 1990 and 2013, transportation emissions accounted for nearly half of the growth of Canada’s total emission levels, with road transport accounting for the largest share of transportation emissions.
Reducing Canadian road transportation emissions by 80% relative to 1990 levels would require a decrease of approximately 117.5 megatonnes (Mt) carbon dioxide equivalent from 2013 levels. But even when taking into account reduced distances travelled per vehicle, improvements in fuel efficiency and greater market penetration of alternative technology vehicles, Canada falls short of the 2050 target, the statement said.
“Canada is making progress reducing its GHG emissions and will continue to do so for the next decade. The challenge is that we are not moving fast enough,” said Len Coad, research director, public policy, with the conference board. “Relying on technological solutions alone will not be enough for Canada to meet the 80-by-50 goal. Canada needs a coordinated approach that supplements our focus on technological improvements with efforts that change the way we use transportation and that reduce demand for road transportation.”
The report, titled A Long Hard Road: Drastically Reducing GHG Emissions in Canada’s Road Transportation Sector by 2050, examines the potential emissions reductions from a range of vehicle usage trends and technologies. It finds that at current conditions there is a steady decline in road transportation emissions levels until 2025. After that point, however, emissions levels are expected to rise by almost 12% from current levels.
When taking into account reduced distances travelled per vehicle, continued improvements in fuel efficiency and greater market penetration of alternative technology vehicles, the initial results are similar: emissions decline steadily through 2025. Beyond that, the rate of decline flattens, with total road transport emissions dropping to 86 million tonnes by 2050, just 12% below the 1990 level of 97.7 Mt, according to the report. The report also finds that an additional 9.7–15 Mt reduction could result from a greater market penetration of alternative technology vehicles, modal shifts and improved transportation planning, still leaving Canada 57–51.7 Mt short of the 80% reduction by 2050 goal.
“The challenge is significant for Canadians who will need to dramatically rethink their travel habits to achieve even a 50% reduction target in road transport emissions,” Coad added in the statement.
The report includes the following recommendations to help bring Canada closer to an 80% reduction in GHG emissions from road transport:
• Continued improvement in vehicle performance and efficiency;
• Further adoption of alternative vehicle technologies, such as hybrids, plug-in electric, natural gas and biofuels;
• Getting people out of cars and onto other modes of transport;
• Considering lower carbon freight options such as rail and marine transport; and
• Reducing demand for transportation.
“The report highlights the need to set realistic GHG reduction targets with clear, practical plans to achieve them, and do it without compromising our ability to travel or constraining our economy,” said Peter Boag, president of the Canadian Fuels Association, in the statement. “Efficient and responsible fuel consumption is both a challenge and an opportunity. We must all make smart decisions about where we live and work, how we get around, and how much we are prepared to pay for our transportation options.”