A long road ahead

By: Peter Boag, President and CEO of the Canadian Fuels Association

Article was originally published in the Canadian Fuels Association 2015 Annual Report - Perspectives - and can be found here: http://canadianfuels.ca/assets/upload/pdf/en/Publications/SectorReview-EN_web.pdf  

Canadian Fuels Association 2015 Annual Report - Perspectives

Driving towards a sustainable transportation system that balances Canadians’ environmental, economic and social aspirations

Governments at all levels are increasingly focused on the issue of climate change. The 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), scheduled for Paris in the first half of December 2015, may be a defining moment in charting the road forward.

An aggressive target

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has determined that keeping the global temperature increase to within two degrees Celsius will require GHG emission reductions of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. A new Canadian report explores that challenge in detail. The Conference Board of Canada’s A Long, Hard Road: Drastically Reducing GHG Emissions in Canada’s Road Transportation Sector by 2050 takes into account the most promising initiatives and technologies. It finds that an 80 percent reduction target for Canada is unrealistic. Converting all passenger transportation to zero emission modes would still leave Canada well short of this goal. Even a 50 percent reduction target will be costly and require not only a significant reduction in transportation activity, but also a break in the traditional connections between economic growth, our standard of living and transportation demand.

The Conference Board report highlights the difficulty for policy-makers: transportation is a significant component of emissions in Canada and around the world. Transportation is also vital for a strong economy and decent quality of life. How can we achieve meaningful emissions reductions without compromising our ability to travel and constraining our economy?

Targets are essential. But they must be realistic and set in conjunction with clear, practical plans on how to achieve them. An aggressive aspirational target in the absence of such strategy is a formula for failure. Kyoto is a good example.

Progress is being made

Rather than dwell on unachievable targets, we feel it is helpful to focus on the environmental progress that’s being made (Breathing Easier, page 32) and the many ways we can make a difference now (eco-driving techniques, page 26). The carbon footprint of transportation will get smaller in coming years, but short of some new and as yet unknown technological breakthrough, incremental technology developments will deliver some of the most beneficial contributions (Fuelled by Innovation, page 22). While the fuel mix will diversify in the decades ahead, petroleum will remain the dominant transportation fuel for the foreseeable future.

Beyond this, demand-side management is the key challenge and opportunity. Canadians and governments must make smart decisions about where we live and work, how we get around, and how much we are prepared to pay for our transportation options (see Get Smart, page 12). The goal is to grow a sustainable transportation system that balances Canadians’ environmental, economic and social aspirations.

We believe combined efforts to achieve this sustainable outcome must be founded on three key actions:

  • Explore, define and evaluate emission reduction pathways in collaboration with stakeholders before targets are set.

  • Recognize Canada’s productivity and competitiveness as core considerations in the development and implementation of a national GHG reduction strategy.

  • Ensure that sound science and cost-benefit analyses drive decisionmaking and are transparently shared with citizens.

Our industry fuels mobility. We are committed to working constructively together with governments and other stakeholders to achieve a sustainable, lower-carbon transportation future for Canada.

Perspectives is an important part of our contribution. This annual publication gathers clear and balanced insights from academics, researchers, independent journalists and industry experts to provide Canadians with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about our transportation fuels future. Perspectives carries on the Canadian Fuels Association’s active role in the public discourse on Canada’s transportation fuels. 

Our members are not responsible for setting targets. But, as Canadians, we are all responsible for helping governments set realistic ones and exploring the ways we can work successfully toward them.


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