Report suggests options to improve emissions

by John Curran

TORONTO, Ont. – The need for better driver training and an industry code of conduct to drive in a fuel-efficient way topped the list of recommendations by the Transportation Table on Climate Change.

These were the suggestions that emerged as the “most promising” ways to help Canada’s truckers meet greenhouse gas emission targets, said Pollution Probe executive director Ken Ogilvie, who chairs the group of industry experts looking for ways that transportation businesses can reduce the gases. The report is the result of more than 15 months of study.

David Bradley, chief executive officer of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, says he’s relatively pleased with the direction he and other representatives, who developed the transportation emissions reduction option paper, set.

“What’s good about the report is that some of the more distasteful measures from a trucking point of view, like forcing a shift from trucking to rail or increasing fuel taxes for example, are not recommended as potential measures by the table,” he says. “Now that doesn’t mean that some government, notwithstanding that analysis, might continue to explore some of these areas.

“The transportation table did look at different ways of imposing higher fuel taxes but that move didn’t find much support among group members.

“We looked at taking the entire Kyoto target out of fuel taxes. That would have more than doubled or tripled the price of fuel,” says Ogilvie. “That was not favored by anybody.”

Supporters of the idea feel that if the cost was high enough, people would drive less.

Other tax measures that were considered included increasing fuel taxes by one cent per litre over 10 years, and implementing urban gas taxes such as those in place in Victoria and Montreal, and planned for Calgary and Edmonton.

Bradley can’t say for certain which elements of the plan government will pick up and run with past the discussion stage.

One idea that has come out of the table discussions and is contained in the options paper is the suggestion of increasing fuel taxes for passenger vehicles but not trucks.

“For the first time in this report there was a recognition of the difference between the private automobile and commercial trucking and that they should be something looked at separately,” trumpets Bradley. “In terms of what the politicians would do in that situation, that’s anybody’s guess.

“I would be very uncomfortable if they were talking about fuel taxes in general (and the politicians) for purely political reasons wanted to lump commercial freight in with cars,” he adds. “Of course we’ve seen that kind of thing in the past.”

Ogilvie said the transportation sector is responsible for 25 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse emissions, and the level of emissions from this sector is expected to increase 32 per cent over 1990 levels by 2010. Yet the Kyoto Agreement on greenhouse gas emission reductions requires a six per cent reduction from 1990 levels. Commercial trucking contributes 27 per cent of the emissions from the transportation sector, and at its current pace is expected to increase its emissions by 75 per cent over the next 20 years.

Before the Canadian government runs headlong into emission reductions, there are still other major questions Bradley wants to hear answered first. At the top of the list: what is going to happen south of the border?

“That’s the $64,000 question,” says Bradley. “It has been very quiet in the U.S. on this front.”

While Canada has endorsed the idea of – but not ratified in full – the Kyoto Accord on emission reduction targets, the U.S. has remained on the sidelines.

“One of the concerns that I and other industrial sectors on the table expressed was that Canada should not go forward unilaterally,” he says. While this point was covered in the option paper, Bradley says he would have hoped to see stronger words to that effect. But the message is in there.

“The Americans are not going to do something that’s going to impair their competitiveness,” he explains. “They have been very insistent upon having third world countries included in Kyoto.

“At the end of the day it would be folly and economic suicide for us to move forward on some of the measures that are listed without the Americans in lock step,” he says.

But Bradley insists there are areas which could move forward immediately without U.S. participation.

“Some of the other things we are talking about from a trucking point of view – like looking at the expansion of the LCV network – those would have a positive economic effect on Canada and don’t require us to wait on the Americans.” n

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