Driving Ambitions: The Implications of Decarbonizing the Transportation Sector by 2030

Original Report, J. Balyk et al., C. D. Howe Institute, July 20, 2021

To achieve the reduction in GHGs from Canada’s transportation sector projected in the December 2020 federal climate plan, approximately 7.7 million zero-emission passenger vehicles would need to be on the road in 2030 – equivalent to a 30 percent share of the total vehicle stock.

The federal government’s “strengthened climate plan,” called “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy,” projects a reduction of 213 megatonnes (MT) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – or 30 percent of 2018 nationwide GHGs – by 2030. The plan projects GHGs from transportation to fall by 35 MT from 186 MT in 2018 to 151 MT by 2030. Understanding the practical implications of transportation emissions goals will support policymakers in considering the trade-offs involved in achieving those goals.

This report focuses primarily on passenger and freight transportation, from cars to SUVs and trucks, which are the main sources of the sector’s emissions. It explores the practical implications of achieving this projected reduction, finding that it translates to a 41 percent reduction in average GHGs per passenger vehicle over the next decade. An example scenario would require several concurrent events: an increase in the blending of biofuels, a 2.5 percent annual improvement in the efficiency of internal combustion engine vehicles, and having zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) account for a roughly 30 percent share of the total vehicle stock. This will require the annual share of ZEV sales to reach 70-75 percent by 2030 – which corresponds with the federal government’s recently updated mandatory ZEV sales target of 100 percent of all passenger vehicles in 2035.

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