Decarbonizing transportation, currently Canada’s second largest source of GHG emissions, will require transformational change in technologies and practices. Road transport lies at the core of the current system and generates the bulk of transport-related GHG emissions, which have risen by more than 80% over the past 30 years. In this Pathways to Net Zero Decision Support Tool, the discussion focuses on two critical elements of the road transport sector: light duty vehicles and heavy trucks.

In 2016, Canadians spent an average of 70 minutes a day travelling, principally in light duty vehicles. Although most Canadian cities have some form of mass transit, 80% of commuters get to work by car. Approaches to transform the system and lower GHG emissions from passenger vehicles include:

  • Avoiding commuting through teleworking
  • A switch to active transportation like walking and biking
  • Expanding mass transit
  • Developing ‘mobility as a service’ models that allow users to access diverse forms of transport, including car sharing
  • Integrated urban planning to promote denser mixed-use neighborhoods (where jobs, shops and recreation are found closer at hand) that are connected to the wider city by public transport
  • Adoption of zero-emission vehicle technologies and the phase out of internal combustion engine vehicles
  • Future advances in connected and autonomous vehicles

Of these approaches, the switch to zero emission vehicles and the phase out of the internal combustion engine is a critical strategic step to accelerate the transition in personal transport. Even with the adoption of all the travel reduction and modal shift options listed above, the structure of our cities and patterns of daily life mean that millions of personal vehicles will remain on the roads for the foreseeable future. A shift to zero-emission passenger vehicles will break dependence on gasoline for mobility and alter the economic and political position of the oil industry. And the technologies that can accelerate this transformation over the coming decade are already mature.

Heavy trucks account for 40% of freight movement in Canada but generate nearly 90% of freight related GHG emissions. Many approaches can contribute to reducing emission in the freight sector (including a modal shift towards rail), but the critical element for systems change is the adoption of zero emission vehicles and the phase out of diesel trucks.