Contributed by Robert Lyman © 2019
Robert Lyman is an Ottawa energy policy consultant, former public servant and diplomat. His full bio is here.
In 2017, there were 22.7 million light duty vehicles (cars, SUVs and pickup trucks) registered in Canada. They represented 12 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in that year.
The current federal government target is to reduce GHG emissions by about 30% from 2005 levels by 2030. In practice, that means a reduction from 716 megatonnes (Mt) of emissions in 2017 to 512 Mt in 2030, or 28.5%. The Green Party and a number of municipalities have called for a reduction of 45% from 2015 levels by 2030, of about 43.5 %.
Presenting these goals in terms of percentages of emissions means little to the average citizen. What if we used some simple assumptions and some simple mathematics to illustrate what it would mean in one sector of the economy if the government chose to seek comparable percentage emissions reductions in all economic sectors?
Let’s ignore for the sake the argument the fact that Canadians buy about two million new light duty vehicles each year, and junk a similar but slightly smaller number of older vehicles, and just treat the number of vehicles as constant.
Reducing light duty vehicles by 28.5% means a reduction of 6,470,000 vehicles, or almost 500,000 vehicles a year from the roads from 2017 to 2030. Reducing light duty vehicles by 43.5% means a reduction of 9,875,000 vehicles, or 760,000 vehicles per year from the roads from 2017 to 2030.
So, the next time someone says that Canada can make these reductions without a problem, ask them how we would remove that many vehicles per year from the roads, and whether they will be the first to volunteer to give up their car.
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