Freight sector missing from plans to scale up zero-emissions vehicle useNew report identifies gaps in Canada’s goods movement system as deliveries, emissions rise

Dec. 10, 2020

Freight and vehicle traffic and pedestrians

Photo © Chloë Ellingson

OTTAWA – A new report evaluating the uptake of zero-emission vehicles in Canada’s freight sector says there are considerable policy and investment gaps that must be filled in order to scale-up efforts to transition to a clean transportation system.

The new report, Building a zero-emission goods movement system: Opportunities to strengthen Canada’s ZEV freight sector, assesses existing policy at the municipal, provincial and federal levels, and identifies 10 actions urgently needed to accelerate widespread deployment of ZEVs, which is key to meeting 2030 climate targets and achieving a net-zero economy 2050. Inclusion of $150 million for charging and refuelling infrastructure in the Fall Economic Statement, and $1.5 billion from Canada Infrastructure Bank to accelerate the adoption of zero-emission buses, were welcome. The upcoming federal climate plan is the next opportunity to lay out a strategy for the freight sector.

Emissions from Canada’s transportation sector account for 25 per cent of total emissions, with freight accounting for 42 per cent of those. By 2030, with deliveries on the rise, freight emissions are expected to surpass passenger-vehicle emissions in Canada. Earlier this year, competing companies, including UPS and Purolator, joined with the Pembina Institute and several industry experts in a new business coalition, the Urban Delivery Solutions Initiative, to reduce these emissions.

The report, a publication of the new coalition, finds that current policies and incentives vary significantly across jurisdictions, preventing widespread adoption.

Actions called for in the report include the implementation of powerful policy tools such as sales mandates and restrictions on high-polluting vehicles, and greater investments such as $5 billion for vehicle procurement, $350 million for charging and refuelling infrastructure, and $36 million for skills training.


“Now is the time to get into gear, as a country, to help the freight sector drive to zero-emission vehicles. Long-range strategic plans, including ZEV sales mandates, paired with significant investments by both government and industry must be in place in the very near future if Canada is to meet its 2030 climate targets and net-zero goals. Reducing emissions from delivery vehicles is just one part of the larger commitment of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. It also presents Canada with a great opportunity for job creation across the country. We have the ability to act, and already have consensus from the big corporate players in this field that the time for the transition has come.”

Carolyn Kim, transportation director, Pembina Institute

“Trucking is quickly becoming the next wave in vehicle electrification. By and large, cities are going to be the incubator where the first generations of zero-emission trucks enter the market. By implementing the set of strategic policies that are identified in this report, Canadian cities can empower urban fleets in the public and private sectors to transition to electric trucks as quickly as possible and unlock the significant environmental and economic benefits offered by zero-emission technology.”

Ben Sharpe, senior researcher and Canada Program lead, International Council on Clean Transportation

In addition to reducing carbon emissions, our e-cargo bikes and low-speed vehicles have the benefit of a smaller footprint and ability to navigate pedestrian walkways with ease, leading to less traffic congestion and noise pollution. We look forward to working with provincial and local governments across the country, as we invest in and roll out more fully electric vehicles and technology to help Canada reach its goals of being net zero emissions by 2050.”

— Mary de Guzman, head of corporate social responsibility, Purolator

“We are looking forward to working with our partners, the Pembina Institute and the Canadian government, to make sure we meet our zero emission goals by 2030. With more and more customers choosing to get their groceries delivered, now is the time to take action for change. At Fresh City, sustainability is at the core of everything we do. We feel it is our obligation to demonstrate leadership in this space, while encouraging other companies to follow suit.” 

Chen Goel, chief logistics officer, Fresh City 


Quick Facts

  • Canada’s current ZEV sector employs around 10,000 workers but with stronger policy is projected to grow to 1.1 million by 2040
  • Currently, the federal government's Incentives for zero-emission vehicles (iZEV) program does not include medium- and heavy- duty commercial vehicles
  • Emissions from Canada’s transportation sector account for 25 per cent of total emissions
  • Most recent figures show transportation as a high source of GHG emissions in major Canadian cities: Metro Vancouver (45 percent); Ottawa (44 per cent); Montreal (40 per cent); Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (34 per cent); Calgary (33 per cent); and Edmonton (31 per cent)
  • Between 2011 and 2016, the amount of freight delivered to Canadian cities increased by 26 per cent
  • Between 2016 and 2018, the average number of online purchases made by Canadians increased by 58 per cent (with record numbers reported by delivery companies in 2020)


Download a copy of Building a zero-emission goods movement system: Opportunities to strengthen Canada’s ZEV freight sector.


Eva Salinas
Senior communications lead, Pembina Institute

About the Pembina Institute

The Pembina Institute is a non-profit think-tank that advocates for strong, effective policies to support Canada’s clean energy transition. We have offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Toronto. Learn more:


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