A recently released report from Statistics Canada, "Greenhouse gas emissions from private vehicles, 1990 to 2007" shows that, on average, Greater Sudbury is now the second dirtiest city in Canada. The study, available through the Statistics Canada website, provides some startling revelations for anyone who lives in a community where residents rely primarily on cars to get around town (click here for the study's highlights).
The study reports that the Transportation Sector produces approximately 27% of all greenhouse gases generated in Canada. Of that, road transportation accounts for 69%. On average, 2,149 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions are produced for every Canadian from personal vehicle use alone!
Of course, not everyone contributes equally to the production of greenhouse gases from personal vehicles. People who don’t own vehicles, for example, contribute nothing to these totals, yet they are impacted just as much by rising emission levels. According to Statistics Canada, the wealthiest amongst us (those making more than $100,000 a year) produce, on average, a staggering 5,737 kg of greenhouse gas emissions from personal vehicle use.
In Greater Sudbury, 2,844 kg of greenhouse gases are produced from personal vehicles for every resident, which makes us the second dirtiest city in Canada, behind only Kingston (at 3,035 kg per person). In contrast, Montreal, Canada’s lowest level per capita emitter, produces only 1,219 kg of greenhouse gases per person from personal vehicles.
There is no question that Greater Sudbury profited from the economic boom of the last decade. While there were economic benefits, we must acknowledge that we’ve made choices which have led to our disproportionate contribution to Canada’s greenhouse gas emission totals. These greenhouse gas emissions are fuelling the climate crisis.
To compensate, we need to start making investments in alternative means of transportation, in order to better facilitate walking, cycling and public transit use. A significant number of Sudburians do not own personal vehicles, and many more are choosing to leave their cars at home in an effort to make a real contribution in the fight against climate change. However, as many Sudburians can attest, it’s not exactly easy getting around this city on foot or by bicycle. This has got to change.
While there remains the need to improve infrastructure for cars, we can’t neglect necessary improvements for those making green transportation choices, whether by design or because of personal economic circumstances. We need safe, well-designed sidewalks and pedestrian crossings, especially for seniors and for those living in outlying areas. Designated lanes on major roads for bicycles, and more public bike storage will encourage more cyclists to take to the road without fearing for their personal security.
Together, we can do a lot to improve our community without significant cost. Mainly, what’s required is a change in the way we think about transportation. In our community, Rainbow Routes has recently been leading an exercise to produce a Sustainable Mobility Plan for active transportation. A presentation before Council is currently scheduled for the evening of June 16th, 2010, at Tom Davies Square. Efforts like these are a good start in moving forward with changing perceptions about transportation.
Let’s all try to lower Greater Sudbury’s overall greenhouse gas emissions by making the healthy choice to leave our personal vehicles at home a little more often. It’s time to start thinking more about walking, cycling or taking the bus.
(originally submitted as a letter to the Editor of the Sudbury Star, May 20 2010; as of this date, the above letter has not been published)