Transportation, the starting point for emission reduction

Published Tuesday, October 11, 2016 in the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal and the Fredericton Daily Gleaner.

Last year, the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers committed to reducing regional greenhouse gas emissions by 75 to 85 per cent below 2001 levels by 2050.   New Brunswick signed on, so presumably we’ll be expected to reduce our emissions accordingly.

How will we do it?  Clearly, every sector of our provincial economy will need to do its part – but one sector offers the potential for significant and relatively quick emission reductions with the least difficulty: transportation.

Emissions snapshot 

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, the transportation sector - which includes passenger vehicles, trucks and anything else that moves people or goods - generates 25 per cent of New Brunswick’s emissions.

Power generation (31 per cent); industry (29 per cent); buildings (six per cent); waste (five per cent) and agriculture (four per cent) generate the rest.

Within the transportation sector, 53 per cent of emissions come from passenger vehicles (including SUVs and pickup trucks), 33 per cent from trucks and 14 per cent from everything else.

From all these numbers, two key takeaways: first, transportation is a huge source of emissions, and over half of those come from the vehicles we drive daily. 

And second: of all emission-producing sectors, transportation probably offers the quickest and least disruptive opportunities for emission reduction.  

Changing how we generate power, how our industries work and how we farm?  That will be difficult and will take time.  Changing how we get around, especially that daily commute to work?  That promises to be a lot easier and could happen much quicker.

Six actions

Here are six ways each of us can reduce our transportation emissions and save money:

Take public transit: there’s nothing better than leaving your vehicle home and taking the bus.  Transit is available in Moncton, Fredericton, Saint John, the Kennebecasis Valley and Miramichi, and efforts are underway to revive a service in Charlotte County.  Schedule not ideal?  Help make it better by taking the bus (because the more people who ride, the easier it is to improve service) and lobbying your leaders.  Never taken transit?  Try it, just once.  Bonus: no parking costs or hassles; and a schedule will actually oblige you to leave work on time!

Go self-propelled: if distances are reasonable, consider walking or biking.  Even cheaper than public transit, with fringe benefits like greater fitness and better mental health!

Carpool: tens of thousands of empty seats travel to work every day in NB (and everywhere else in Canada too), so the potential for carpooling is huge.  Besides reducing emissions, you can save loads on gas; it’s usually more fun having someone along for the ride or letting someone else handle the driving; carpooling reduces traffic so everyone gets where they’re going faster; and carpooling is ideal for rural areas.   In Saint John, visit www.shareyourride.ca to securely find carpooling partners; elsewhere, circulate a note at work, put a flyer up on your neighbourhood mailbox or make a few phone calls.  Try it, just once!

Stop idling: a no-brainer; it's better to turn off your engine if you expect to be idling longer than ten seconds.  Related: skip drive-thrus; it’s usually faster to go inside anyway.

Drive an efficient vehicle: buy the most efficient vehicle that meets your needs, and rent for those rare occasions when you need something bigger.  Resist the temptation of 4WD or AWD because they decrease mileage.  Visit www.tinyurl.com/fuel-ratings to see fuel economy ratings for all vehicles sold in Canada.

‘Hypermile’: most drivers can improve their fuel economy by 10 to 20 per cent simply by driving smarter: gentle on the gas, gentle on the brake, easy on the AC and other simple steps.  Great tips at www.tinyurl.com/save-fuel-2016

Least difficult

There’s no doubt that meeting our emission reduction targets will be a challenge, and not all of the above actions are easy.  But among all emission reduction options, they’re probably the least difficult.