Transportation a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, study finds
Thursday, November 09, 2006
OTTAWA (CP) - Big trucks and sport-utility vehicles are exacting a price on the environment, says a new federal government report that blames transportation for generating more than a quarter of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions in 2004.
The report, coming on the heels of the federal government's proposed clean-air act, says emissions of some smog-forming pollutants have been on the decline, but it contends highly polluting transportation trends have slowed or inhibited the decrease and contributed to poor air quality in and around urban areas.
"More than one-half of all nitrogen oxides, a quarter of volatile organic compounds and upwards of 17 per cent of fine particulate matter came from transportation activities in 2004," said the report, released Thursday.
"The nation's transportation activities are emitting less and less of these smog-forming pollutants as time goes on, thanks in large part to catalytic converters and cleaner burning fuels. But these emissions continue to be a concern because of their potential impact on human health and the environment."
The minority Conservative government tabled sweeping legislation in the House of Commons on Oct. 19, saying it would develop new regulations for vehicle fuel consumption by 2011, harmonize vehicle emissions standards with those of the United States over the next year and, by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 45 and 65 per cent from 2003 levels.
It also promised to set national targets for smog and ozone levels by 2025 and discuss and set "intensity-based" targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the next three years.
There was no mention of the Kyoto Protocol and the emissions targets the government of Canada committed to in 2002, and environmentalists and opposition politicians alike decried the bill as a "dirty air act" that would never pass muster in Parliament.
Facing a possible non-confidence vote over the issue that could bring down his government, Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to a proposal by the NDP's Jack Layton to bring the bill before a Commons committee for revision.
The Statistics Canada report points to the growing use of heavy-duty trucks to move goods and a shift toward greater use of light trucks - vans, sports utility vehicles and pickups - for transporting people, noting these trends have boosted greenhouse gas emissions and limited the decline of smog-forming pollutants.
It says a contributing factor to increasing truck traffic is the concept of "just-in-time" delivery of freight, whereby companies require delivery that is tightly synchronized with manufacturing processes.
"Just-in-time delivery helps companies compete by reducing the expense of carrying large inventories," it says. "However, it means that trucks are making more trips."
Growth in cross-border trade has also pushed up demand for trucking. Between 1990 and 2003, truck traffic across the Canada-U.S. border grew five times faster than domestic traffic, the report says.
About 32 per cent more tractor trailers were registered in 2005 than in 2000, according to the Canadian Vehicle Survey.
Canadians have also come to rely more and more on their cars and trucks, the report says. In 1951, there were nearly five people for every vehicle registered in Canada. This declined to fewer than two people per vehicle by the mid-1980s and has remained steady ever since.
Between 1990 and 2004, the volume of fuel purchased at the pump for road vehicles grew by more than 20 per cent. And transportation consumed nearly a third, or 31 per cent, of all energy used in Canada in 2004, the second-largest user after industry.
The report says greenhouse gas emissions emitted by transportation - including carbon dioxide, methane and acid-rain-causing nitrogen oxides - increased 30 per cent, or almost 45 million tonnes, between 1990 and 2004.
"The main contributor to this increase was Canada's growing dependence on road vehicles to move people and goods," said the report.
"An estimated 86 per cent of the growth in transportation's emissions came from road vehicles; in particular, light trucks, such as vans, sports utility vehicles and pickup trucks, and heavy-duty vehicles, such as transport trucks."
The number of light trucks rose 26 per cent between 2000 and 2005, while the fleet of cars and station wagons fell one per cent.
In 2005, the average fuel efficiency for gasoline-powered cars in the fleet of private vehicles in Canada was 9.1 litres for every 100 kilometres. For pickups, however, it was 14 litres, and for vans, 11.5 litres.