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Locomotive Emissions Monitoring

Canada’s railways are greener than ever before. Innovative operating practices and investments in new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency compliant locomotives have allowed Canada’s freight railways to improve their fuel efficiency by close to 45 per cent since 1990. In fact, the rail industry produces just one per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, even though it transports more than 100 million passengers and around 70 per cent of the country’s intercity freight each year.

Creating a Greener Rail Network

In 1995, the Railway Association of Canada first entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Transport Canada and Environment Canada in an effort to manage the rail industry’s locomotive emissions. As a result of that agreement, the Locomotive Emissions Monitoring (LEM) Program was created to ensure that railways were living up to their commitment to meet GHG intensity reduction targets, and working to reduce emissions of criteria air contaminants (CACs).

The current MOU with Transport Canada covers the years 2018-2022. The intensity targets for both Class 1 freight and intercity passenger rail is a 6 per cent reduction from 2017 levels while the intensity target for shortline rail is a 3 per cent reduction from 2017 levels. CAC emissions will continue to be monitored and reported on under this MOU. The Railway Association of Canada publishes an annual, peer-reviewed report summarizing the progress that railways have made towards meeting these targets, and highlighting the actions that the industry has taken to reduce emissions. The program is audited by an independent and accredited firm to ensure both data integrity, and that the terms and conditions of the MOU are being observed.

Previous MOUs may be viewed by clicking on the following links.

The LEM Program has led to the implementation of new locomotive and railcar technologies and retrofits, the creation of educational programs to promote best practices and innovation, as well as new operational and infrastructure initiatives—all with the goal of reducing the industry’s emissions. Many of these initiatives are highlighted in RAC’s Action Plan for Reducing GHG Emissions.

The LEM Program also supports the Government of Canada’s objective to reduce our country’s total GHG emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. It’s just one of the ways that Canada’s railways are creating a transportation system that not only strengthens our country’s economy and competitiveness, but does so as sustainably as possible.

Check out RAC’s Rail Freight Greenhouse Gas Calculator to see the estimated amount of carbon dioxide that can be diverted from our environment by choosing freight rail instead of trucks:

( Estimate this distance )


For more information about the Locomotive Emissions Monitoring Program, please contact:

Jonathan Thibault
Manager, Economics, Data and Research