Why VIA Rail Took the COP 21 Pledge

This week, VIA Rail along with 65 other railway members of the UIC, signed an ambitious pledge with the goal of reducing its impact on climate change. This event coincided with the meeting of global climate change-makers in Paris, at COP21. These are people dedicated to reducing climate change and willing to put pen to paper to make it happen.

After many years of negotiations, it is expected that a worldwide, legally binding limit on GHG emissions will be agreed upon at United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) by Dec 11. The agreement, by more than 150 countries, will aim at preventing a rise in global average temperature of more than two degrees Celsius.

The transport sector (planes, cars, trains, buses…) is a major source of GHG emissions. Therefore, setting limits on emissions would have significant impact on both the transport industry and the climate.

In Canada, our chosen modes of transportation are the largest contributor to GHG emissions. In 2013*, the transportation sector (including all forms of passenger, freight, air, road and marine travel) generated 28% of all emissions nationally. However, of all the modes of transport, the rail industry’s impact on the environment is the least significant – it only accounted for 1.02% of national emissions. Furthermore, passenger rail represents a mere 0.01% of GHG emissions across Canada. Therefore, a shift toward travel by rail is part of ensuring sustainable mobility and is an important factor in the solution to climate change.

To stimulate the shift in getting Canadians to leave their cars at home and take the train, VIA Rail must meet the needs of our passengers: reliability (on time performance), frequency (departures per day), and travel time. These needs can only be met through a mix of greater access to rail infrastructure and where markets can justify, dedicated passenger rail corridors, beginning on the busiest Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal (T-O-M) routes.

Conservative projections show that a dedicated passenger track would increase VIA Rail passenger traffic by almost 300% over 12 years – from 2.3 million to 6.8 million on the T-O-M routes – and would remove approximately 5.5 million cars from the road. 5.5 million fewer cars would make a very significant impact on the reduction of Canada’s GHG emissions and on climate change. This is a project that can be a reality within the next 5 years.

In the meantime, everyone can help to reduce their own carbon emission impact by making a conscious choice to take the train for their next intercity trip.

With the future environmental health of our country (and the world) at stake, VIA Rail is pledging to make a difference. We hope for your contribution as well.

See you on board soon!

*source: 1990-2013 “Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada”, Environment Canada National Inventory Report

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