30% of Canadians exposed to air pollution from road traffic – with SUV’s and diesel trucks the top polluters

The scientific journal Nature underscored the health dangers of air pollution in an April 2019 editorial titled, “Stop denying the risks of air pollution”, which stating that exposure to outdoor air pollution accounts for 4.2 million deaths globally each year, according to the World Health Organization.   Although we face nothing like the tragic current situation in Delhi India , Canadians should  not be complacent. A two-year study into traffic-related pollutant concentrations found that nearly 30 per cent of Canadians live near major roadways and thus are exposed to a “soup” of pollutants in their daily lives.

air pollution 2019 coverScientists measured pollutants at six monitoring stations near Toronto, including Highway 401, and Vancouver  between 2015 – 2017, and published their latest results in October, in Near-road air pollution Pilot Study . Findings include:

Highly polluting diesel trucks are making a disproportionate contribution and they represent the major source of key pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and black carbon. Data for these pollutants indicate that excessive exposure to diesel exhaust can occur near roads with a significant proportion of truck traffic.

Canada’s cold winters can increase concentrations. Ultrafine particle concentrations, for example, are higher in winter. Nitrogen oxide concentrations are higher on cold winter days, suggesting that the emission control systems for diesel vehicles may not perform well at low temperatures.

… non-tailpipe emissions of particles from brakes and tires have been rising in Toronto since 2012 and now exceed primary emissions through tailpipes. The cause is attributed to the growing popularity of SUVs and pickup trucks, which cause more tire and brake wear because they’re heavier.

 

Many of  the recommendations of the pollution study relate to strategies for continued scientific monitoring of transport-related pollution, but the report also recommends:

“Exposure to traffic-related air pollutants should be reduced where people live, work and play. Strategies should be taken to shape communities so that residents’ exposure to traffic-related air pollution is reduced. These strategies can contribute to existing plans for vibrant and compact communities. For example, a mix of land uses (e.g., commercial, retail, etc.) can be promoted within higher exposure areas; pedestrian and cycling infrastructure can be moved away from high exposure areas; and walkability, transit service quality and access, and parking management can be improved. Indoor exposure can be reduced by improving building design and operation, including ventilation and filtration systems.”

The research was conducted over a two-year period by The Southern Ontario Centre for Atmospheric Aerosol Research at the University of Toronto (SOCAAR), in collaboration with Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, and Metro Vancouver.  The lead author is Professor Greg Evans of the University of Toronto.  The full report is available in English only; a  Summary report is available in English or French from this link .

Although the results have been published previously in academic journals, the study was widely covered in the media – for example,  in the Toronto Globe and Mail , and a thorough summary by the CBC .

The growing threat of SUV’s and Diesel trucks :

An October blog  by the International Energy Agency highlighted “a dramatic shift” to SUV’s: “…there are now over 200 million SUVs around the world, up from about 35 million in 2010, accounting for 60% of the increase in the global car fleet since 2010. Around 40% of annual car sales today are SUVs, compared with less than 20% a decade ago.” The full analysis underlying the blog will be published in the forthcoming World Energy Outlook 2019 in mid-November 2019.

In Canada, heavy duty trucks form the majority of the freight fleet, and freight transport accounts for 10.5% of our greenhouse gas emissions.  The Pembina Institute published  Fuel savings and emissions reductions in heavy-duty trucking in May 2019, to provide a roadmap to the technological solutions already available to reduce trucking emissions.  On October 16, the Capital Plan for Clean Prosperity published recommendations for the transportation sector:  How greening transport can boost economy and curb GHGs These policy recommendations deal with all personal transportation, public transit,  and freight transportation; regarding freight, the Capital Plan recommends that a federal grant system be established to allow for 50% of new freight trucks to be zero emissions vehicles, at an estimated total cost of $14.4B .  Estimated benefits for the freight industry include emissions reductions,  savings of $53.8 billion in fuel and maintenance costs, and  24,800 to 50,000 new jobs in the freight industry alone.

International clean energy experts discuss investment levels, zero emissions vehicles, building emissions, gender equality in Vancouver meetings

CEM10-MI4_LogoIn the week of May 27, representatives from global government, industry, and NGO’s met as Canada hosted the 10th Clean Energy Ministerial in Vancouver. Several announcements were made against that backdrop:

Investment support for clean energy: The federal government announced it will contribute up to $30 million to Breakthrough Energy Solutions Canada (BESC),  a public-private initiative to support “cutting-edge companies to deliver game-changing clean energy innovations to the market.” This Canadian program will be administered by Natural Resources Canada – in collaboration with Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a $1 billion investment fund launched in 2016 by billionaires such as Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg.  The Canadian press release quotes Gates: “ We are hopeful that this Breakthrough Energy partnership with Canada will be a model for developing more collaborations…” A summary appears in “Canada launches homegrown version of Bill Gates-led clean energy fund”   in the National Observer (May 27).

The National Observer hosted a panel discussion on clean energy investment on May 28. The panel included the Vice-President of the European Investment Bank, the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, and Céline Bak, president of Analytica Advisors and author of the 2019 report,  Leveraging Sustainable Finance Leadership in CanadaA summary and video of the panel’s discussion is hereThe discussion revealed that, unbeknownst to Canada, the  European Commission and the European Investment Bank  have also reached agreement with Breakthrough Energy Ventures on a new €100 million fund to support clean energy investments – described in a May 29 press release.

Clean energy investment trends are worrying, as reported by the International Energy Agency in  World Energy Investment 2019 (May 14) : “Global energy investment stabilised in 2018, ending three consecutive years of decline, as capital spending on oil, gas and coal supply bounced back while investment stalled for energy efficiency and renewables.”  In May,  BankTrack and others published  Fool’s Gold – the Financial Institutions Bankrolling Europe’s Most Coal-dependent Utilities , naming the financial institutions behind almost €16 billion in support to the coal industry since the Paris Agreement was signed in December 2015.

electric truckZero emissions  vehicles: The International Energy Agency released the 2019 edition of one of their flagship publications, Global EV Outlook, which provides historical analysis, projections to 2030, and insights on electric vehicle and charging infrastructure deployment, ownership cost, energy use, carbon dioxide emissions and battery material demand. As part of the discussions on electrification of transportation at the CEM10, Canada became the first national government to endorse the Global Commercial Vehicle Drive to Zero (Drive to Zero) campaign, with British Columbia and the City of Vancouver also signing on . A press release explains “Drive to Zero is a strategic international initiative designed to catalyze the growth of the zero-emission (ZE) and near-zero-emission (NZ) medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sector (MHDV), which includes everything from transit buses to eighteen wheelers to box trucks to school buses. Pledge partners promise to collaboratively put in place supporting mechanisms to speed the early market for these vehicles and equipment.”  Drive to Zero is a program of CALSTART,  a nonprofit consortium with offices in New York, Michigan, Colorado and California, and international partners which include Clean Energy Canada.  As Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources stated in the press release, this is in line with Canadian priorities: the Final Report of the Advisory Council on Climate Action  ( May 28) recommends policies concerning zero-emissions vehicles, including “The Government of Canada, working with partners and stakeholders, should develop an integrated strategy to reduce emissions across modes of transportation, including actions to support modal shifts.”  Related: on May 2, the Pembina Institute published Fuel Savings and Emissions Reductions in Heavy-Duty Trucking : A blueprint for further action in Canada  . 

Gender Equality in Clean Tech:  Over 100 organizations have now signed onto the Equal by 30 initiative, an international campaign begun in 2018. It “ encourages companies and government to adopt gender-equal principles, advance the participation of women in the clean energy transition and take concrete actions to support women in the sector.” A summary of the Gender Diversity participants and events is here . 

Hydrogen as a source of clean energy: A new “Hydrogen Initiative was announced  under the leadership of Canada, the United States, Japan, the Netherlands and the European Commission, with the International Energy Agency as co-ordinating body. The initiative is intended to drive international collaboration on policies, programs and projects to accelerate the commercial deployment of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies across all sectors of the economy, especially industrial and transportation applications.

Building efficiency: Heating and cooling strategies in the clean energy transition: Outlooks and lessons from Canada’s provinces and territories is a report released at the Clean Energy Ministerial meetings on May 27. It is the result of collaborative research between the International Energy Agency and the National Energy Board of Canada. Using Canadian provincial data, it examines energy demand patterns and energy policies regarding  heating and cooling services in buildings, urging policies to move from natural gas to existing, cleaner technologies.  The National Observer summarizes the report in “Cutting fossil fuels could save Canadians  $24 billion a year by 2050”  .

New fuel regulations aim to reduce emissions from Canada’s freight industry

With freight transportation producing approximately 10 percent of Canada’s total emissions, on June 14, Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister announced   new carbon-pollution regulations for heavy-duty vehicles, defined as  “ school buses, transport tractors and trailers, garbage trucks, delivery vans, and larger pick-up trucks”. The regulations begin in 2020, and become increasingly stringent with each passing year – with a goal to reduce carbon pollution by approximately 6 million tonnes a year by 2030.

state of freight coverThe Pembina Institute welcomes the regulations here, with reference to its detailed report on the issue:  State of Freight ( June 2017),  and also an OpEd from Policy Options in April 2018, “On vehicle emissions standards, it’s time Canada divorced the U.S.” .   “McKenna touts new climate pollution controls for large trucks and buses”  in the National Observer (June 14) includes a discussion of the Canada-U.S. alignment over fuel standards.

In May, the Conference Board of Canada released  Greening Freight: Pathways to GHG Reductions in the Trucking Sector, which recommends several ways to help reduce emissions from freight transport,  including the adoption of established fuel-saving technologies, carbon pricing, and disruptive technologies such as electric zero-emission and driverless trucks. The report is available from this link (free, registration required).

Also on this topic, an article by researchers from the University of British Columbia’s Clean Energy Research Centre appeared in  the April 2018 issue of Energy Policy“Electrification of road freight transport: Policy implications in British Columbia” concludes that all-electric  trucks could  reduce 64% of the emissions from road freight transport in the province by 2040, if 65% of trucks ran on 100% hydroelectric power. However, the demand created would overwhelm the supply available – therefore, the authors call for new policies “to support diversified renewable electricity generation and low-carbon pathways. For example, carbon capture and sequestration coupled with provincial reserves of natural gas can enable low-carbon hydrogen production and decrease the electricity requirements for zero-emission vehicles in B.C.”  An article on the CBC website summarizes the academic article.

 

Updated: Autonomous vehicles in Canada, job displacement, and bargaining at UPS

autonomous vehicleAutonomous Vehicles and the Future of Work in Canada  is a report released on January 11 by the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) and funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.  It  provides an overview of the technology and benefits of autonomous vehicles, including “smart cities”. Most of the report is dedicated to an in-depth analysis of the impact of AV’s to Canada’s labour market, forecasting a demand of approximately 34,700 jobs in the industry by 2021, and considering the issues of job displacement and occupational skill requirements. The ICTC forecasts that the integration of AV technology will be slowed down in the trucking industry by a  shortage of drivers (estimated by the Canadian Truckers Alliance as 34,000 by 2024), giving the industry a buffer of time to plan training and retraining strategies. The report considers non-driving occupations (including mechanics, dispatchers, auto assembly workers,  insurance underwriters, heavy equipment operators) in a “deeper dive” about education, wages, and demand. The most in-demand occupations, with the highest wages,  are forecast to be in Information Technology: software and computer engineers, database analysts, computer programmers, etc. . The report concludes with five recommendations centered around the need for more research and  greater integration between policymakers, industry and academic experts, so that Canada can catch up with the autonomous vehicle “powerhouse” countries: U.S., Germany, and Japan.

The Canadian Senate Standing Committee on Transportation and Communication released its report on autonomous vehicles in January 2018, after hearing from over 78 witnesses from across Canada and the United States between March and October 2017  (The testimony is compiled here ).  The Submission by Teamsters Canada (Oct. 2017) focused mostly on the safety concerns of driverless vehicles, but raised the issue of displaced workers and their pension and benefits, stating that  “Teamsters Canada believes the study of automated and connected vehicles is not just a technical study, it must examine the social and workplace consequences of technology adoption.”  A fuller view of the concerns of Teamsters (and B.C. Taxi drivers) appears in an article in The Tyee, “Job Losses from Automated Vehicles Worry Truckers” (Feb. 2).

UPS electric truckThe issue of autonomous vehicles is being tested in the negotiations underway between UPS and the Teamsters in the U.S. An article from the Wall Street Journal is reposted at the Teamsters’ website: “Teamsters tell UPS no Drones or Driverless Trucks“.   The Teamsters Union has been closely monitoring all aspects of the technology and appeared at a House of Representatives Committee hearing on autonomous vehicles, according to a Teamsters press release from June 2017.

Within Canada, Ontario strives to be the leader in autonomous vehicle development, and employs almost 10,000 workers in the industry as of November, 2017, when the Premier announced the launch of an Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network at Stratford, Ontario. Part of the $80 million investment over 5 years will be spent on a Talent Development Program, to support internships and fellowships for students and recent graduates with Ontario companies advancing C/AV technologies. Full details are at The AVIN Hub .

 

Ontario’s GHG emissions at lowest level since 1990 – Environmental Commissioner commends the first year of cap and trade but recommends changes for freight sector, green procurement

Ontario logoOn January 30, 2018  the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) submitted her annual Greenhouse Gas Progress Report to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario –  an independent, non-partisan review of the government’s progress in reducing emissions for 2016-2017.  The report, Ontario’s Climate Act: From Plan to Progress  covers the period since the  Climate Change Action Plan was introduced in June 2016, and the  cap and trade market became effective January 2017.  The report provides detailed emissions  statistics by sector and sub-sector, catalogues and critiques climate-related policies, and places Ontario’s initiatives in a national and international context – especially the cap and trade market and its relationship with the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.  Top-level findings:  overall, GHG emissions were at the lowest level since reporting began in 1990 and “the first year of cap and trade went remarkably well”. Because  Ontario’s market is part of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) which  includes California and Quebec, the report warns that prices make weaken because of political  uncertainty in the U.S., and also calls for more “bang for the bucks” in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Account, which manages the proceeds of the carbon auctions.  Chapter 4 includes an explanation and critique of Ontario’s proposed carbon offsets, which are also tied to the WCI, and states that some sectors at some risk of being little more than greenwashing.  The Commissioner singles out the emissions of Ontario’s transportation industry and  states that it will be impossible to meet Ontario’s emissions reduction targets unless urgent action is taken to rein in emissions from the freight sector, with recommendations to “encourage the freight sector to avoid trucking where possible (e.g., through logistics and road pricing), improve diesel truck efficiency (e.g., through incenting the scrapping of older diesel trucks), and shift freight away from fossil fuels (e.g., providing more targeted support for zero-emission trucks).” UPS electric truck The report also calls for improved green procurement policies in government’s own spending and a stronger climate lens for regulation, taxation and fiscal policies.  The  Ministry of Energy is singled out in this regard:   “For example, the Ministry of Energy by itself governs 70% of Ontario’s emissions, yet its 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan does little to achieve Ontario’s climate targets.”  An 8-page summary of the report is here ; the full report, (all 284 pages) is here ;  eight Technical Appendices are available from this link.