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Canada needs low-carbon, sustainable transportation system: Deloitte

Connecting with Purpose summit stresses link between prosperity and transition to low-carbon economy

Andrew Pau, transport sector leader for Deloitte Canada. (Courtesy Deloitte Canada)
Andrew Pau, transport sector leader for Deloitte Canada. (Courtesy Deloitte Canada)

Deloitte Canada is calling on the Canadian government and the country's corporate sector to collaborate on building a resilient and sustainable transportation ecosystem. 

This was one of the main themes of Deloitte's second annual Transportation Summit: Connecting with Purpose conference in Vancouver on May 22. The summit addressed the need for creative solutions to decarbonize commercial road transport and increase productivity across the network and its multiple "gateway" corridors.

The Vancouver summit outlined how the greening of Canada's transportation sector is one of the keys to enhancing overall economic productivity and prosperity.

Andrew Pau, transport sector leader for Deloitte Canada, is the company's point man in confronting the manifest threats posed by climate change. Under his guidance, Deloitte is expanding its efforts to enable Canadian companies to adapt and accelerate the transition to a sustainable economy.

"Modernizing legacy infrastructure - whether we're talking about building more climate-resilient infrastructure or whether we're talking about decarbonizing infrastructure as a whole and specifically transport infrastructure - this requires collaboration between government policy makers and the business and investment communities," Pau said in an interview with Sustainable Biz Canada.

Deloitte Transportation summit: critical talking points

Deloitte believes the Canadian transportation sector is entering a critical period of transformation propelled by the increasingly urgent need to electrify and otherwise introduce low-carbon infrastructure solutions.

Accordingly, the summit raised many critical points regarding the steps needed to both decarbonize and expand the capacity of our transportation infrastructure.

The key takeaways from the summit were:

  • Decarbonizing commercial road transport: Develop new models of commercial collaboration whereby companies across the energy and transport value chains will work with industry associations, experts and concerned groups to develop new models of cooperation. 
  • Increasing productivity, resilience and sustainability in Canada’s gateway: Canadian ports are vital to the economy and require new investment to modernize infrastructure and need to deploy digital technologies to increase productivity and improve resiliency. The summit also highlighted the need for the Pacific gateway to modernize, address climate resiliency, decarbonize and integrate new technologies to be competitive on the global stage.
  • Creating value from sustainable transport: The need for organizations to create value for all people connected to them in order to achieve true sustainability by addressing issues of net-zero travel and higher transit ridership plays and their economic impact. 
  • Vision for a net-zero city: Assemble leaders in government, law, finance and infrastructure to discuss ways to build advanced infrastructure projects for a competitive and resilient future.

Collaboration between industry and government

Pau emphasized how Canada's leading corporations and various levels of government need to coordinate, cooperate and synchronize strategies aimed at both upgrading and decarbonizing this country's economic infrastructure as well as its transport sector.

"Originally I was focusing on transportation in the B.C. region, but since 2021 I've been given more of a national mandate with regard to low-carbon transport and bringing the business community and government communities together to solve the complex issues that are in front of us," Pau said.

Deloitte has spent several years working to establish sustainable industrial ecosystems in Canada which necessarily involve creating a viable framework whereby business and government coordinate strategies and policies.

The transportation sector is "Canada's bridge to sustainable prosperity and growth" and further serves as a key driver of the economy, Pau added.

Stimulating EV adoption

Apart from the need to stimulate the growth of an increasingly electric and ultimately green hydrogen-powered heavy duty transport sector, Canada will also need to see a steady increase in electric vehicle (EV) adoption as part of the transition toward a zero-carbon transportation system.

"We need to build out the infrastructure needed to support lower-carbon modes of transport, whether it is electric passenger vehicles, electric or hybrid heavy duty trucks, in addition to hydrogen-powered trucks," Pau said.

According to Pau, the current plateau phase in EV adoption rates was to be expected to "some degree." He believes the existing slowdown in EV sales growth is attributable to the end of the first phase of adoption in the industry.

"All the the earlier adopters and the likely adopters have used up the demand that was present in the system. That's the stage we're into now," Pau explained. "And the next stage will be the more challenging phase of the EV adoption process where consumers are evaluating their usage of the vehicle relative to the performance capabilities of the vehicle. But we're not talking speed performance in this case, we're talking distance travel.

"We're at that juncture where in the case of consumer passenger vehicles, it's going to be about the user experience, the availability of the charging infrastructure, and the addressing of specific use cases."

Prosperity linked to transition to a low-carbon economy

Pau has spent the past six years at Deloitte focusing on transportation sector clients and has been responsible for bringing together diverse stakeholders to advance sustainable development which he believes is inextricably tied to overall economic prosperity. 

"At this point it's not a matter of whether you believe in global warming or not - the decarbonization of transportation is on its way and this is becoming a business imperative.

"A lot of our clients are looking for advice about beginning the (sustainable) transition process . . . I see my role in this sector and Deloitte's role in this sector is to make sure that there is a place where Canadian businesses (can participate) in bringing about a low-carbon future.

"And as someone living in British Columbia, living in Canada, this is now about the future prosperity of this country."

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