A week of transportation climate progress

Blog - Nov. 4, 2016 - By Dianne Zimmerman

Photo: Roberta Franchuk, Pembina Institute

This week has been an important one for progress in climate action for Canada’s transportation sector. Commitments from the federal government that came out this week include substantial funding for transit infrastructure, and action to move towards a low-carbon transportation system. The transportation sector accounts for almost a quarter of Canada’s emissions, so this signal of commitment is much welcomed and necessary if Canada is to hit its 2030 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions target. With this in mind, in the upcoming pan-Canadian climate plan we hope to see a continued focus on solutions to reduce GHG emissions from personal vehicles and freight, as they are a critical piece of the emissions pie.

This week’s good news began with Tuesday’s fall economic statement. Minister of Finance Bill Morneau announced the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which gives a much needed boon to transit projects. The economic statement, to be legislated for the next federal budget, proposes $25.3 billion in public transit.

This was reiterated in Wednesday’s joint announcement with Toronto Mayor John Tory, Ontario’s Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca, and the federal Minister of Infrastructure Amarjeet Sohi. We’re always happy to see coordination between all three levels of government – especially when it comes to transit funding. We look forward to hearing more about how allocation from the infrastructure bank will be decided. We recommend establishing strong GHG criteria, and priority be given to projects that show greater emissions reduction potential. 

Yesterday, the federal Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau announced Transportation 2030, the ministry’s strategic plan. In his remarks, he mentioned that the future of transportation will be electric and zero-emission vehicles. We couldn’t agree more. As part of our submission to the federal climate change portal, we outlined the opportunity for North America’s first low-carbon highway. We believe the federal government should partner with the Ontario and Quebec provincial governments to transform the Windsor-Quebec City corridor – one of the continent’s busiest highways and a vital commercial link to the U.S. – ­ into a low carbon highway. By introducing low carbon fueling options such as fast chargers, hydrogen and natural gas, governments can reduce the barriers to testing new technologies for individuals and companies operating in that corridor.

We were especially pleased to see that both announcements this week included a renewed interest in goods movement. Freight is a substantial and often overlooked aspect of the emissions profile. The Transportation 2030 strategy included an investment of $10.1 billion in trade and transportation projects to help address congestion and bottlenecks. This is an exciting and necessary investment, and to help with this, we recommend the federal government look at developing a national freight strategy, as outlined in our climate portal policy submission.

The announcement of the Smart Cities Challenge by Minister Garneau is also an exciting one. This is a great opportunity for municipalities to play a role in addressing emissions in freight, through better planning and green technologies. Solutions are needed at all levels of government, so we were pleased to see the minister address this.

We’re looking forward to hearing more details from these high-level announcements, and working with the government on moving action and ambition forward.


Dianne Zimmerman

Dianne is director of the Pembina Institute’s transportation and urban solutions program. She is based in Toronto.


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