It is evident that the green transition is occurring at a disappointingly slow pace. In the midst of a climate emergency, it is imperative that we take immediate action to mitigate the effects of climate change. One crucial aspect of this is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through the adoption of more sustainable transportation methods. However, the lack of adequate infrastructure to support electric vehicles (EVs) or cycling as a means of commuting renders these options inconvenient and unsafe for the majority of individuals. Failing to address these infrastructure gaps means that Canada’s climate obligations will not be met.
The reality of the climate crisis has become alarmingly evident, as we recently experienced the hottest July on record. It is crucial that we prioritize the reduction of carbon emissions, regardless of the remaining carbon budget. Climate disasters around the world are dictating timelines for action, and yet gas-powered cars continue to congest city streets, contributing to pollution and further exacerbating the problem. Additionally, the phenomenon of urban sprawl only perpetuates these harmful driving habits. In order to reverse this detrimental trend, Canada urgently requires substantial investment in transport infrastructure and incentives.
Disparity: Toronto vs. Copenhagen
A notable example of the disparity in cycling infrastructure can be observed when comparing Toronto to Copenhagen, Denmark. In Copenhagen, an impressive 62 percent of people commute by bicycle, contributing to a city that is considered one of the happiest in the world. In stark contrast, Toronto lacks high-quality cycling infrastructure, incentivizing car travel to the detriment of both the city’s well-being and carbon budget. It is crucial for Toronto and other cities in Canada to prioritize the development of cycling infrastructure in order to promote sustainable transportation methods.
One significant challenge facing the promotion of cycling as a commuting option is the issue of bike theft. In Canada, bike theft rose by 429 percent this summer, indicating the need for effective solutions. Currently, solutions such as bicycle lockers exist; however, they are not widely installed and often require reservations and monthly payments. Promising initiatives, such as the on-demand bicycle storage system being piloted in Vancouver and the Vancouver City Centre Bike Valet, show potential for nation-wide implementation. However, such endeavors will require substantial effort to be implemented on a larger scale.
A recent survey highlighted that one of the factors preventing Canadians from adopting electric vehicles is the lack of charging infrastructure. In a climate emergency, it is imperative that both cycling and electric vehicle infrastructure be installed without delay. Despite Toronto’s mandate to reach net-zero emissions by 2040, its efforts are pale in comparison to other cities globally. Cities like Brazil, Ireland, France, Ecuador, Sweden, Colombia, and South Africa are taking legislative and incentive-driven actions to promote the adoption of electric vehicles and the development of charging infrastructure.
While certain Canadian provinces, such as Québec and British Columbia, have made notable strides in promoting electric vehicles and establishing infrastructure, Ontario and Toronto lag behind in terms of innovation and policy. Electric vehicles not only address local air pollution but are also associated with higher human development indexes (HDI) and the development of environmental inventions. In countries like Sweden, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Norway, and certain Canadian provinces, the connection between cleaner technologies and personal health and happiness is more apparent. Investing in education can act as a catalyst for change, fostering a better understanding of the benefits of sustainable transportation among the population.
To meet its climate commitments, Canada must make a substantial effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. Building sustainable transportation infrastructure not only improves our quality of life but also presents a significant economic opportunity. Infrastructure development is a proven method to boost an economy, and when done right, it can also contribute to environmental sustainability. Canada can begin by implementing well-known policy solutions and rapidly scaling up infrastructure projects nationwide. Additional electrical grid capacity, phased in over time, would be a practical and necessary step. The demonstrated emissions reductions associated with electric vehicles validate their utility over gas-powered cars, regardless of the energy fuel source used.
Across the globe, countries with varying energy mix variations, such as China, have successfully integrated electric vehicles into their transportation systems. Even in Ontario, where energy sources rely heavily on fossil fuels like coal, the emissions reductions achieved through electric vehicle adoption have been estimated at around 80 percent. The International Energy Agency offers a comprehensive policy database that can serve as a valuable resource for cities like Toronto, which lag behind in clean transportation policies and initiatives. By investing in university research and pursuing ambitious nationwide initiatives, Canada has an opportunity to lead the global stage and stimulate its economy through sustainable transportation infrastructure.
The green transition in Canada is progressing at an unacceptably slow pace. Urgent action is required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and this necessitates the development of sustainable transportation infrastructure. From improving cycling infrastructure to expanding charging networks for electric vehicles, Canada has the potential to make significant strides towards a greener future. The time for Canada to seize this opportunity and accelerate the green transition is now.