More than two-thirds of Canada’s land is covered in asphalt, and more than one-third of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions come from asphalt, according to a report by the Institute for Energy Research.
The report, released Wednesday, is based on data from Environment Canada.
It was based on an analysis of the 2014 and 2016 National Ambient Air Quality Plans.
According to the institute, most of the new roads built in Canada over the last 20 years have come in the form of asphalt, which is more expensive to construct.
“It’s quite clear from the data that the road that’s paved is going to be a lot more expensive, and it’s also going to have a huge impact on the climate,” said Andrew McNeil, executive director of the institute.
“That’s what we found when we looked at the roads.”
The institute calculated the carbon intensity of the roads on the continent and the amount of carbon they emit, as well as their energy consumption and emissions, by comparing them with the emissions of a comparable highway built on a highway.
It found that in Canada, the amount emitted from new roads on average is 6,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, about three times the amount that would be emitted from an average highway on a similar road.
In comparison, the emissions from an oil pipeline in the United States is about 5,000 tonnes.
“Our analysis found that for every $1 of investment in a road, the climate benefits are more than $20 in climate benefit,” McNeil said.
“The cost is going up for everyone.”
McNeil said that when it comes to the costs of new road construction, the environmental benefits are “quite low,” but added that the cost is likely to be higher in other parts of the world.
“We’re not looking at this in the context of, ‘Oh, you’re going to build a road and it will save a tonne of carbon,'” he said.
The report says that in many areas, the roads built for the last 15 years are the only options for people to get to work or school.
The institute found that nearly two-fifths of Canadians live in urban areas and nearly a third live in rural areas.
McNeil noted that the report looked at emissions from asphalt alone.
“You know, this is really a one-size-fits-all kind of thing,” he said, adding that in the U.S., most roads are built on gravel and the carbon dioxide emissions are more of a function of the highway design and construction.
McNeil also pointed out that there are no national standards for road design.
The new roads in Canada are often built on private land, so there is no regulation for building on private property.
“There’s no clear federal regulation on whether it’s a good idea to build on private lands,” he noted.
The institute says it’s the first national study to look at the cost of building a road in Canada.
“This is a first step in making sure that we understand how we can get rid of these expensive, high-polluting roads,” McNeill said.