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Ground transportation is responsible for almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions globally—and account for about 40 percent of emissions in British Columbia (BC).

Despite current policies and new low-to-no emission vehicles coming onto the market, road transportation emissions are on the rise. Continuing down this path puts into question whether we can meet the Paris Agreement requirements to slow the planet’s warming.

Jonn Axsen, an associate professor in Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environmental Management, hopes to change that.

In a study funded by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions under its Transportation Futures for BC project, Axsen and collaborators Michael Wolinetz, an SFU adjunct professor, and Patrick Plötz, from the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany, carried out an in-depth evaluation of policies and policy combinations to reduce road transport emissions, and to determine which policies and mixes work best, and why.

Their findings, which lay out how we may achieve climate goals, have been published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The co-authors identify three regulations that need to lead the way: vehicle emission standards, low-carbon fuel standards, and a Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) sales mandate.

Axsen says BC is considered a global leader with its ZEV sales mandate, which requires all new vehicles sold by 2040 to be zero-emission. BC also requires a 20 percent reduction in the carbon intensity of all fuel sold by 2030, compared to 2007 levels. And nationally, vehicle emission standards induce manufacturers to produce more efficient products.

“I kind of look at it as a trio, or a hat-trick, of regulations that seem to be quite a complimentary mix,” said Axsen in an interview with the Vancouver Sun. “They’re all to some extent in British Columbia, but they need to be stronger and longer-term to get us on track for our climate targets.”

He says more ambitious carbon reduction targets for fuels are needed, and vehicle emission standard upgrades need to carry on past their current 20205 horizon.

Additional complementary measures are also needed. These include driving disincentives such as road pricing, carbon taxes, parking fees and congestion charges but this should occur alongside improvements in active travel and public transit options, as well as smart growth in cities. The researchers conclude that policymakers across the world need to implement a stringent mix of these policies, though the exact combination may vary by context.

Jonn Axsen is an associate professor in SFU’s School of Resource and Environmental Management.
Jonn Axsen, a principal investigator with the PICS Transportation Futures for BC project, and associate professor in SFU’s School of Resource and Environmental Management.

Read the media release here