Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced last week that the government was changing the rules regarding foreign ownership of Canadian airlines. The goal is to lower air fares so Canadians can fly more. But there's a problem. Tom Walkom writes:
Aviation fuel gives off carbon when burned. It also gives off other particulates that, because they are deposited in the upper atmosphere, contribute to global warming.True, air travel is a relatively minor contributor to climate change. The David Suzuki Foundation estimates it is responsible for between four and nine per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.In Canada, according to the 2012 transport department report, domestic air travel on its own accounts for just one per cent of carbon emissions.But these figures are on the rise. The Suzuki Foundation reckons the carbon dioxide emissions from international aviation have grown by 83 per cent since 1990. The transport department report says Canadian emissions rose between 2001 and 2010 in spite of successful efforts by airlines to increase fuel efficiency.
The goal of lower airfares makes it more difficult to meet Canada's commitments under the Paris climate change agreement. When a doctor writes a prescription he or she has a duty to make sure that the prescription doesn't clash with or undercut another prescription. In effect, the government is practising bad medicine:
Long-distance air travel can never be eliminated, particularly in a big country like Canada. But a government serious about climate change could focus on other, more energy-efficient forms of transportation, such as buses and trains for short-haul trips.
I expect Trudeau’s government, like those before it, will balk when it comes to doing something on this or anything else that might significantly improve passenger rail service in Canada.
Something's got to give. There are better prescriptions.