Interim Plan 2001 on Particulate Matter and Ozone: chapter 2.2

2.2 Transportation

Transportation is essential to Canada's economic and social fabric, bringing people and goods together across our large country. No sector of the economy could function without an effective transportation system. Transportation, however, also affects the quality of our air, water and land. Canadians expect a safe and efficient transportation system, but they also want a clean environment. Balancing these economic and social needs with the need to protect the environment is central to the concept of sustainable development.

The Government of Canada is addressing emissions from this sector in a variety of ways. Some of the initiatives include:

  • emission reduction standards for light-duty vehicles;
  • promotion of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment's (CCME) Environmental Code of Practice for Light Duty Motor Vehicle Emission Inspection and Maintenance Programs;
  • new stringent fuel standards for low-sulphur gasoline and diesel;
  • four agreements to fast-track the introduction in 2000 and 2001 of cleaner, less polluting off-road engines into Canada (such as those in string trimmers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, lawnmowers and portable generators, engines in construction and agricultural equipment, recreational marine engines and personal watercraft).

Further initiatives are also planned to reduce transportation emissions. Under the federal government's cleaner vehicles and fuels agenda, announced in February 2001, current regulated vehicle standards will be replaced by new standards that will reduce NOX emissions by approximately 88 per cent from passenger cars and up to 95 per cent for light-duty trucks, including sport/utility vehicles (SUVs). Another important goal of the new regulatory regime in both Canada and the United States is to bring the performance standards for light-duty trucks in line with those for passenger cars.

Vehicles and Engines

cars on highway
  • Regulations will be developed by 2002 to align Canadian emission standards for on-road vehicles and engines with those of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which are generally recognized as the most stringent in the world. The regulations will apply to light-duty vehicles and light-duty trucks (for example, cars, pick-ups, SUVs), and will be phased in starting with the 2004 model year. New regulations for heavy-duty vehicles and engines will come into effect in the 2007 model year.
  • An interim agreement with vehicle manufacturers to bring low-emission vehicles into Canada has been developed for model years 2001-2003.
  • A code of practice for heavy-duty vehicle inspection and maintenance programs will be developed in 2001.
  • Emission control programs for off-road engines will be aligned with those in the United States by 2002, to take effect in the 2004 model year. Programs are also planned for the off-road sector, including gasoline utility engines such as those used in snowblowers, portable generators, lawnmowers, and chainsaws, and diesel engines used in construction and agricultural equipment.These small engines are often many times dirtier and less friendly to the environment than modern car engines.


Environment Canada will continue its general approach of aligning Canadian fuel requirements with those in the United States. In some cases, however, additional measures may be warranted. Initiatives include:

  • new regulations to reduce sulphur in on-road diesel fuel to 15 parts per million by 2006, down from today's average of 320 parts per million;
  • initiating work to support a reduction in sulphur in off-road diesel fuel and home heating and industrial fuel oils;
  • requiring companies to provide information on their use of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) in gasoline (spills of MTBE, which is sometimes used in gasoline, can contaminate groundwater);
  • launching studies to determine future standards for gasoline to further reduce emissions of toxic substances such as benzene from vehicles, and to promote the earlier introduction of cleaner fuels.

Full details on the contents of the Government's Notice of Intent for Cleaner Vehicles and Cleaner Fuels are available on Environment Canada's website.


International controls will be developed through the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on the sulphur content of marine bunker oils and international standards for NOX emissions. Current IMO proposals limit the sulphur content of marine fuels to 4.5 per cent and only a small amount of fuel currently used is above that level. The IMO process could create Special Areas where sulphur levels are restricted to 1.5 per cent. One example is the Greater Vancouver Regional District, where Transport Canada and Environment Canada have been asked to begin the process of declaring the west coast a Special Area.


plane on final approach

Aircraft emissions and operational practices that affect local air quality will be addressed by Transport Canada and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

  • Transport Canada and ICAO will work together to ensure that annual improvements in fuel efficiency for aircraft produced prior to 2004 are not offset by increases in distances traveled.
  • Emission reductions are also possible from aviation ground support activities and air traffic management through Transport Canada participation in two air emissions working groups under the ICAO Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection.

Possible future areas of action

Strategic expansion of rail traffic in major corridors, including shifts of freight and passengers from other modes, could become a key component of national transportation demand management.This could increase rail's market share, thereby helping to reduce overall emissions from the shipment of goods.

Given the new responsibility undertaken by Transport Canada to regulate air emissions and pollution from railway equipment,Transport Canada is exploring means to fulfill this new regulatory capacity, including investigating technology options for rail and establishing a technical working group on emissions control.

Marine transportation contributes to sulphur oxides (SOX) and NOX emissions in Canada. Canada's aim is to implement policies and regulations on marine air pollution under the Canada Shipping Act to reduce harmful air emissions from ships.

Air traffic around the world continues to increase rapidly. Further to Transport Canada's work with ICAO, consideration is being given to building partnerships with airport authorities to reduce emissions at airports. As well, research needs to be undertaken to assess the impact of emissions on the atmosphere in Canadian airspace, including Canada's polar region.

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