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Canada’s Railways – Innovating to reduce emissions and move our economy

OTTAWA, September 25, 2023 – Major investments in green technology are powering continued progress in Canadian railways’ drive toward lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The latest Locomotive Emissions Monitoring (LEM) report released today by the Railway Association of Canada confirms that, year-over-year, GHG emissions intensities improved across all railway operations:

  • GHG emissions intensity for freight traffic decreased by 1.2% in 2021, the latest year for which data are available.
  • Total freight GHG emissions intensity has decreased by 25.9% since 2005 while traffic increased by 25.5% in that same period.
  • Intercity passenger railways improved their GHG emissions intensity by 18.0% compared to the previous year.
  • Regional & shortline railways’ GHG emissions intensity was down 4.0% from the previous year.

“Rail is green technology – it is by far the most sustainable and fuel-efficient way of getting goods and people across land, and Canada’s railways are continually innovating,” explains RAC President and CEO Marc Brazeau. “Railroaders are committed to ensuring a sustainable future for all Canadians while serving as a backbone of our economy.”

“Canada has ambitious climate goals, and this is especially true in the transportation sector, where the rail industry will play an important role in helping us meet these objectives, said the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez. “As highlighted in the Locomotive Emissions Monitoring Report, our investments in innovative rail infrastructure projects and clean technologies are helping bring us closer to net-zero emissions by 2050. Thank you to everyone who helped put together this report. With this, we move closer to ensuring a greener, cleaner future for all Canadians.”

In 2021, the most recent year for which data are available, railways invested $2.3 billion into their Canadian networks and lowered their emissions through investments in fleet renewal/modernization, fuel saving technologies, operational efficiencies, and use of low carbon fuels.

Canada’s railways have made tremendous progress in reducing local criteria air contaminant (CAC) emissions. Despite a significant increase in rail traffic since 2005, absolute CAC emissions have decreased considerably. Sulphur dioxide has been nearly eliminated (-99.0%); particulate matter has dropped by nearly two-thirds (-61.2%); and hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide have been cut by 54.8% and 47.4% respectively.

Canadian railways added 80 new locomotives to their fleets in 2021, most of them high-tiered, fuel-efficient and high-horsepower locomotives. Some 165 mostly lower-tiered and non-tiered locomotives were retired. More than 3,000 locomotives (84.1% of the total fleet) were equipped with an anti-idling device.

The latest edition of the LEM report was released under the 2018-2022 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between RAC and Transport Canada. This collaboration dates to 1995, when the first MOU was signed between railways and the federal government.


About the Railway Association of Canada 

The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) represents close to 60 railway companies and more than 60 associate members (suppliers, consultants, etc.). Our freight railways transport $350 billion worth of goods across our country and to global markets each year. RAC advocates on behalf of its members and associate members to ensure that the rail sector remains globally competitive, sustainable and, most importantly, safe. Learn more at www.railcan.ca. 

Data Contact:
Jonathan Thibault
Manager, Economics, Data and Research

Media Contact:
Chris Day