Market Snapshot: Increased GHG emissions from the transportation sector reflect major consumer and business trends

Release date: 2016-07-14

Total Canadian greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have increased from 614 megatonnes (MT) of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent in 1990 to 733 MT in 2014, an average annual growth rate of 0.7 %. GHG emissions from the transportation sector, the second largest emitter in Canada, has had stronger growth since 1990, at an average annual rate of 1.1 % per year. In 2014, emissions from the transportation sector were 171 MT, roughly 23 % of total Canadian GHG emissions.Footnote 1

The largest source of transportation emissions was from passenger transportation, including passenger cars, light trucks, aviation, bus, rail, and motorcycle. In 2014, passenger transportation accounted for 55 % of total GHG emissions from the transportation sector, or 95 MT. Emissions from passenger aviation, bus, rail, and motorcycle have remained largely flat at 9 MT from 1990 to 2014. Despite improved fuel economy and emission standards in most vehicles, the growing trend of consumer preference for SUVs and light trucks has resulted in GHG emissions from light trucks more than doubling, from 22 MT in 1990 to 50 MT in 2014, which has more than offset reductions in passenger car emissions from 52 MT in 1990 to 36 MT in 2014.

Source and Description

Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada’s National Inventory Report: 1990-2014

Description: The stacked area chart illustrates GHG emissions from the transportation sector in Canada from 1990 to 2014 in MT of CO2 equivalent. Total GHG emissions from the transportation sector increased from 129 MT in 1990 to 171 MT in 2014. The chart breaks down emissions by mode of transport, including passenger cars; passenger trucks; passenger aviation, bus, rail and motorcycle; freight trucks; freight aviation, rail, and marine; and other (which includes other recreational, commercial, and residential uses). Emissions in many of these areas were relatively stable from 1990 to 2014. However, passenger car emissions decreased from 52 MT to 36 MT, passenger light truck emissions increased from 22 MT to 50 MT, and freight truck emissions increased from 24 MT to 55 MT.

Emissions from freight transportation, 68 MT or 40 % of total transportation sector emissions in 2014, have grown significantly since 1990. While emissions from freight aviation, rail, and marine have remained relatively steady over the years at 15 MT, emissions from freight trucks have more than doubled, from 24 MT in 1990 to 55 MT in 2014. Despite generally being the most energy-intensive and highest-cost mode of freight transportation, moving freight by truck has increased in recent decades as a result of increasing consumer demand for manufactured goods, just-in-time production models,Footnote 2 and door-to-door delivery to consumers.

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