Rail and the Environment

Environmental policies in Canada, at federal and provincial levels of government, are being developed in response to public demands for improved air quality, reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increased energy efficiency. Overall, Canada is faced with the challenge of reducing emissions growth in a highly competitive global economy. At the same time, Canada's economic strength and community wellbeing must be assured.

A key component in an environmental strategy must be the role the rail sector can play in reducing emissions associated with transportation activity. Currently, the transportation sector, the largest single source of GHGs, contributes 28 per cent of GHGs produced in Canada. Rail is well positioned as a solution to reducing GHG emissions associated with transportation activities. Canada's rail business moves 70 per cent of the surface freight on a tonne-kilometer basis but produces only 5 percent of transportation sector GHGs. Canadian rail is in a unique position to meet the challenge facing Canadian communities and industries by offering environmentally sustainable transportation today and into the future.

Canada must encourage and enable an effective and sustainable transportation system to serve the nation and its regions. A system that enhances movement of freight and passengers by rail and continually strengthens Canada's and competitiveness is critical to our nation's economic well-being.

Canada's Rail business has made a significant contribution to environmental sustainability in the past and it is well positioned to play an important role in the future. In an effort to management locomotive emissions, the RAC and its member railways entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Transport Canada and Environment Canada. Under this agreement, the rail industry committed to greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets, on an intensity basis, for Class 1 freight railways, short line freight railways, intercity passenger rail, and commuter rail as well as efforts to reduce emissions of criteria air containments. The industry is ready to continue to work with governments, communities and other private sector partners to increase the sustainability of the Canadian economy.


Media Contact:
Alex Paterson
Public Affairs Coordinator
Telephone: (613) 564-8111

To see the difference that you can make by shipping your freight with rail, we invite you to use the RAC's Rail Freight Greenhouse Gas Calculator, click here.

How Railways Can Assist in Improving Canada's Environmental Performance. Download the PDF here.


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The Railway Association of Canada's Rail Trends provides a ten-year composite of financial and operating statistics for a comprehensive review of the business of transporting goods and people by rail in Canada. This review covers virtually all interveners of rail - the Class 1s, regional freight companies, short lines, intercity passenger, commuter and tourist train... MORE >