The Road to Net Zero: Stepping toward decarbonization

Toronto bike lanes, Sherbourne Street by Municipal Affairs and Housing
Toronto bike lanes, Sherbourne Street by Municipal Affairs and Housing. Copyright Queen’s Printer for Ontario, photo source: Ontario Growth Secretariat, Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

An exciting new initiative on the path to decarbonization started taking shape with the “Road to Net Zero,” an exploratory workshop held on August 9. Organized as a broad opening discussion on researching, designing and testing real-world solutions to transport decarbonization, the event was the first in a series of workshops and seminars planned.

Over 150 participants from academia, industry, government, NGOs and community groups attended.

Co-leaders of the Road to Net Zero initiative are: Professor Jeff Brook, Principal Investigator and Scientific Director, Canadian Urban Environmental Health Research Consortium (CANUE); Professor Greg Evans, Director, Southern Ontario Centre for Atmospheric Aerosol Research; and Professor Marianne Hatzopoulou, Canada Research Chair in Transportation and Air Quality and leader of the Transportation and Air Quality (TRAQ) research group.


Welcome remarks were given by Professor Chris Yip, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering at the University of Toronto.

After an overview of the initiative by workshop hosts, three moderated panels featured presentations followed by discussion and Q & A:

  1. Future Freight featured Éric Baril (National Research Council), François Bélanger (CN), Carolyn Kim (Pembina Institute), Keegan Tully (OPG), moderated by Professor Matt Roorda.
  2. Sustainable communities and cities included speakers Jeff Brook (UofT), William Chernicoff (Toyota Mobility Foundation), Cara Clairman (Plug and Drive), Steve McCauley (Pollution Probe), moderated by Professor Eric Miller.
  3. Pricing, policy, and equity panelists Richard Corley (Goodmans LLP), Richard Blundell (UofT), Daniel Posen (UofT) were moderated by Dr. Judy Farvolden.

The workshop included discussion of possible formats for the partnership and collaboration, and the search for funding.


The Road to Net Zero aims to better understand the issues by taking a systems view of decarbonization problems and pathways, incorporating many research disciplines and perspectives. This will be pursued by exploring the broader implications and benefits of sustainability initiatives that are being planned or implemented by government and industry, so that as a community we can all “learn while doing” together. Focus areas include:

  • Refined emission estimation for vehicle fleets for cities
  • Life cycle analysis for multiple fuels
  • Identification of ways to reduce transport emissions
  • Enhancement of urban sustainability
  • Promotion of equity and social justice

“It’s not just the steps that happen [that are important], but it’s the context in which they happen. These things all overlap with each other. And the idea [is] that it’s not just simply the technology, but it’s the people, it’s the capacity to implement these innovations, that are important.

We want to learn from each other. We want to learn from what’s going on around the world.” – Professor Greg Evans