It will be tough, but not impossible, for Canada to reach GHG emissions reduction target, says expert

by Sonia Straface

WINDSOR, Ont. – Canada has its work cut out for it to hit its GHG emissions reduction goals, according to Michael Burt of the Conference Board of Canada.

Burt, the director of Industrial Economic Trends group, said at the 54th annual Canadian Transportation Equipment Association’s conference this week in Windsor, Ont. that for Canada to reduce its emissions by 30% from 2005 levels to by 2030, as promised, it will have to do a lot more than just implicate a carbon tax.

“We are going to have to work hard to achieve these objectives of helping reduce global emissions,” Burt said. “It’s possible…we can transition to a low carbon economy, but it’s going to be a great challenge. Carbon taxes alone will not get us to our targets.”

And, unlike our neighbors to the south, Canada doesn’t rely on much coal fired electricity, so that low-hanging fruit has already been picked, explained Burt. Eighty per cent of Canada’s electricity already comes from clean solutions, so simply phasing out and shutting down coal plants, has already been done, he said.

Today, Canada’s GHG emissions total roughly total 722 megatonnes. Reducing emissions by 30% means getting rid of more than 200 megatonnes of GHG emissions in less than 15 years.

“This is not going to be easy,” Burt said. “Just to give you an idea of how much we need to reduce by 2030 to reach our goals…even if we shut off all of our electricity, that’s only 80 megatonnes.”

Last year, the federal government revealed its carbon reduction plans. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in October 2016 that a minimum price of $10 per tonne would be put in place in 2018 and rise $10 a ton per year until $50 a tonne in 2022. This plan, however, only reduces GHG emissions by about 40 megatonnes, Burt said.

Additionally, this carbon tax will raise fuel prices, Burt said. If the $10 carbon tax per year increases until 2025, that means at $80 per tonne, fuel prices will be up 18 cents a liter than they are now, Burt explained.

“I don’t know about you, but I live in Ottawa, and sometimes I see gas prices vary across the city by 10 cents in one night,” he said. “This carbon tax is just not enough.”

Burt believes that Canada needs to do more to change people’s behavior to really make a change in its carbon footprint.

“We have to change people’s behavior,” he said. “Changing fuel prices by 18 cents is not enough.”

Transportation is going to be a big part of Canada’s GHG reduction, as almost one quarter (24%) of Canada’s GHG emissions come from transportation – 9% of Canada’s total emissions come from freight transportation.

What the transportation industry can do to help reduce emissions, said Burt, is fuel switching and fuel economy.

For heavy trucks, Burt said, fleets need to start thinking about moving away from diesel, and thinking about biofuels.

“Right now, however, first generation biofuels still need to be mixed with diesel, so hopefully second-generation biofuels won’t need to be mixed,” he said.

In the future, Burt said it would be beneficial to look at an east-west power grid system so provinces can buy and sell power to each other and to find ways to change people’s behaviors if we want to hit the 2030 goal.

“It’s not impossible,” he said. “But it’s going to be very challenging.”

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.