Towards Net Zero: Developing a Rail Decarbonization Roadmap for Canada

Rail has always been a highly effective method of transportation, especially over the past 26 years due to the efforts from the rail sector. But now is the time to go further with rail’s decarbonization efforts to meaningfully contribute to Canada’s GHG reduction goals. Pollution Probe, the Railway Association of Canada and the Delphi Group have created the “Rail Pathways Initiative – Developing a Rail Decarbonization Roadmap for Canada” which lays out a clear path forward in rail decarbonization efforts, based on emerging low-carbon technologies. This includes a framework for assessing GHG reduction opportunities in Canada’s rail sector and a strategy to apply it to inform decision-making on decarbonization.  

This work is based on the understanding that the trajectory to net zero for rail will unroll in three overlapping “waves”:  

Wave One: Efficiency Improvements

Many measures in this category are in use in the rail sector now, and new efficiency measures will continue to be developed.

Wave Two: Low-Carbon Fuels

These are in use in low blend rates now, and the technology to allow for the use of higher blend rates is in development and expected to be commercially available in the context of rail application by 2030.

Wave Three: Alternative Propulsion

While some alternative propulsion options are in use now, wide-spread commercial availability across all Canadian rail applications is not expected until after 2030.

This report is a ground-breaking initiative that can serve as a template for other jurisdictions and transportation sectors that are pursuing aggressive decarbonization to address the global climate emergency. This Pathway initiative is proof that, despite the many obstacles, net zero is feasible and within our grasp – we just need to be full speed ahead!