MONTREAL, June 2 - The Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique (AQLPA) and its Clear the Air!/Retire Your Ride program partners are taking this opportunity, on Clean Air Day, to thank the 20,000 Quebecers who have recycled their older vehicles over the past year. Their efforts have made enormous environmental gains possible, and Quebecers in all regions are now breathing easier.


Equivalent of 380,000 fewer vehicles on the road

Environment Canada findings indicate that 1995 model year and older vehicles generate 19 times more air pollution than do 2004 and newer models. Retiring 20,000 automobiles with a 1995 or earlier model year is equivalent to taking 380,000 more recently built (2004 or later) cars off the road (assuming mileage is equal). "Recent analyses carried out by Air Care - which tested vehicles taken off the road as part of the program in British Columbia - have shown, however, that average levels of smog-forming emissions produced by retired automobiles could be at least 32 times higher than those of 2004 model year or later vehicles," said André Bélisle, AQLPA president. Older vehicles are more highly polluting because they were made before the advent of less-polluting technologies and the tightening of pollution control standards. "As a vehicle gets older, its emission performance deteriorates further - and nowhere is this truer than in Quebec, which, unlike several provinces and U.S. states, has no mandatory inspection and maintenance program for automotive vehicles in place at this time," added Bélisle.

Substantial environmental gains

Replacing 20,000 older vehicles with more recent models or a range of other ways of getting around, such as public transit, car sharing and active transportation, has helped bring about a marked improvement in air quality and assisted the fight against climate change. Based on conservative estimates, stepped-up removal of these vehicles from the roads has led to reductions in volatile organic compound (VOC) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions of, respectively, almost 500 tons and more than 200 tons. These two pollutants play a role in the formation of ground-level ozone - a respiratory irritant and a key component of smog. Air quality is an influencing factor in human health, and this generates significant costs and places considerable pressure on our healthcare system(1). This is evidenced by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec's estimates, which indicate that close to 2,000 early deaths and countless cases of cardio-respiratory discomfort each year can be attributed to poor air quality.

This program has also enabled environmentally responsible recovery of 13,600 tons of metal, 380,000 liters of fluids (gas, oil, etc.) and more than 2.5 kilograms of mercury, a highly toxic contaminant. If dumped in water, this quantity of mercury would be enough to contaminate the equivalent of 450,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Fighting climate change

Clear the Air! participants who have switched to public transit and active transportation have achieved an actual, lasting drop in carbon dioxide (CO(2)) of at least 6,000 tons. More than two-thirds of participants in auto recycling programs who opted for public transit have stated in surveys that they will continue to use this means of transportation after their transit pass expires. This program has therefore, undoubtedly, proven an effective tool for promoting a modal transfer and the fight against climate change. "In order to successfully reduce Quebec's GHG emissions no later than 2020, by at least 20% versus 1990 levels, we need to get the transportation sector simultaneously involved on two fronts: through a modal transfer favouring public transit and active transportation - which means fewer cars, each running up less mileage - as well as through improved energy performance by cars on the road," declared Michel Labrecque, Chair of the STM. "The automobile is an essential element of Quebecers' mobility. One of our challenges is, in fact, incorporating it into the Transportation Cocktail and achieving appreciable reductions in solo car use for all travel, by everyone at all times, over the course of the next decade," Labrecque added.

"Since more than 40% of greenhouse gas emissions are generated by all modes of transportation combined, efforts to reduce them can only be encouraged. The Clear the Air! program is not only an excellent initiative and an optimal way to get the more highly polluting cars off our roads, it's also a great means of educating the general public about the benefits of public transit and inciting behaviour changes in certain people that will impact on how they get around," said Pierre-Luc Paquette, the AMT's Vice-president Communications and Marketing.

New partners - More rewards to suit all preferences

The strong network of partners built by Clear the Air! offers a number of rewards to participants who recycle their older vehicles. The Société de transport de Sherbrooke and the Société de transport de Trois-Rivières recently joined the movement by also offering 15 months' worth of free public transit to residents of their respective cities who give up their old cars and opt for public transit. For intercity public transit, participants are offered $1,200 in monthly passes or ticket booklets on the Montreal-Sherbrooke route, through a new partnership with Transdev-Limocar Sherbrooke.

Program participants can therefore enjoy an even greater choice of rewards when they exchange their older vehicles: a pass for 15 months' free public transit use, a three-year subscription to Communauto, a credit of up to $790 toward the cost of a bike or an electric bicycle, a $1,000 credit toward the purchase of an EVT electric scooter, $300 in cash, etc. All participants are also entitled to a rebate on their subscription to Communauto's Lièvre package.

Still too many old "clunkers" on the road

The Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec indicates that 1995 model year or older vehicles registered in Quebec number slightly over 500,000. Today is Clean Air Day - and the AQLPA and its partners invite all owners of old "clunkers" to give up their vehicles while there's still time to benefit from the program. Nothing could be easier - just sign up at www.cleartheairprogram.org.

About Clear the Air! (www.cleartheairprogram.org/www.aqlpa.com)

Clear the Air! is a program for recycling older, highly polluting vehicles, launched in Quebec by the AQLPA in 2003. Its goals are to help improve air quality, fight climate change and encourage Quebecers to use more sustainable modes of transportation. Since the spring of 2009, Clear the Air! has been a partner in the federal government's Retire Your Ride program. And since December 2009, Clear the Air! has received financial support from the Quebec government.

About Retire Your Ride - www.retireyourride.ca

The Government of Canada has allocated $92 million to implement the Retire Your Ride program, which is intended to help Canadians take their older, higher polluting vehicles off the road and encourage them to make sustainable transportation choices that will reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. Retire Your Ride is run nationwide by Summerhill Impact and is supported by a network of regional partners. The program will end on March 31, 2011.

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    (1) Estimation des impacts sanitaires de la pollution atmosphérique au
         Québec (Estimating the impacts on health of air pollution in Quebec)
         Institut national de santé publique du Québec (2007    
         http://www.inspq.qc.ca/pdf/publications/817_ImpactsSanitairesPollutionAtmos.pdf