Modal Optimization as a Contributor to Reducing GHG Emissions in Canada

The transportation sector is responsible for roughly 25% of Canada’s GHG emissions. While emerging advanced propulsion technologies have significant potential to reduce emissions, near-term opportunities to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation through shifts to lower carbon modes can also contribute to the achievement of Canada’s climate targets, which include a 30% reduction in GHG emissions (from 2005 levels) by 2030, and net zero by 2050.

This report was completed as part of a project supported by Natural Resources Canada. It identifies and explores modal optimization solutions which can be implemented by a variety of stakeholder groups to improve energy efficiency across the transportation sector through the optimized movement of people, goods and services. Report findings are based on a data-driven assessment of sector-wide mobility trends and associated environmental impacts in recent decades.

The report assesses the technological and policy landscape in Canada with regard to low-carbon transportation before launching into an in-depth exploration of the prevailing modes of transport for people and goods. In terms of the movement of people, modes assessed for energy optimization are passenger cars and trucks, domestic aircraft, intercity buses, urban transit, and passenger locomotives. On the movement of goods, modes assessed in the report are on-road heavy-duty trucks, freight locomotives, marine cargo ships and aviation.

Lower-carbon alternatives to prevailing modes are assessed for both passenger and freight transport. Findings highlight steps that can be taken by key stakeholder groups to facilitate modal shifts in priority areas, and the benefits that can be realized through such shifts.