Canada’s Black Carbon Inventory Report 2021

1 Introduction

Black carbon is a short-lived small aerosol (or airborne particle) emitted from combustion processes and linked to both climate warming and adverse health effects. Black carbon emissions have become a focus of attention due to their effects on the near-term warming of the atmosphere and on human health. Reducing black carbon emissions is of particular interest in polar regions, such as the Arctic, which are especially sensitive to the effects of black carbon. When black carbon particles settle on snow and ice, they darken the surface and enhance absorption of solar radiation, thus increasing the rate of melting (Clarke and Noone, 1985). Black carbon is not emitted on its own, but as a component of particulate matter less than or equal to 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5), along with other components, such as organic carbon and inorganic compounds, such as sulphates.

The Arctic Council was one of the first fora to recognize the importance of taking action to address short-lived climate forcers and pollutants, such as black carbon, methane and ground-level ozone. During Canada’s chairpersonship of the Arctic Council from 2013 to 2015, the Council first promoted actions to achieve enhanced reductions of black carbon and methane emissions. The Framework for Action on Enhanced Black Carbon and Methane Emissions Reductions was agreed to in April 2015. A key component of these actions is the voluntary reporting by Arctic states of their black carbon emissions to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in accordance with guidelines from the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP). At the 2017 meeting of Arctic Council ministers, Canada, along with other Arctic states, renewed its commitment to take action to reduce black carbon emissions. As part of this commitment, the Arctic Council states also committed to the aspirational goal of reducing collective emissions of black carbon by 25–33% of 2013 levels by 2025. Consistent with this, on November 28, 2017, Canada ratified the Gothenburg Protocol and its 2012 amendments under the CLRTAP. The amendments to the Gothenburg Protocol, which came into force in October 2019, include new commitments to reduce emissions of particulate matter (PM) and, in doing so, to prioritize sources of PM that are also significant sources of black carbon. Canada’s black carbon emissions annual inventory allows Canada to assess its progress in reducing black carbon emissions, combatting related climate change and human health issues, and to contribute towards the Arctic Council-stated collective aspirational goal. Canada continues to improve the quality and transparency of information related to black carbon emissions.

This document describes the 2021 edition of Canada’s annual inventory of anthropogenic black carbon emissions, covering the years from 2013 to 2019. All emissions reported in this inventory are from anthropogenic (human) sources. Natural sources of black carbon, such as wildfires, are not included. Emissions are generally grouped in the same categories as those used in Canada’s Air Pollutant Emissions Inventory (APEI). They are organized into seven source categories that are further broken down into 34 sectors and 9 associated subsectors. See Annex 1 for source category organization and sector descriptions.

The estimates in this inventory are based on the best available information at the time of compilation. Estimates of PM2.5 emissions are consistent with those reported in Canada’s 2021 APEI. Please refer to Chapter 3 and Annex 2 of the APEI Report [PDF] (Environment and Climate Change Canada [ECCC], 2021) for a description of the inventory development and estimation methods for PM2.5. While the black carbon inventory provides valuable information on emissions within Canada, it does not distinguish localized sources of emissions within the provincial and territorial level aggregations. Work will continue to improve the quality, completeness and accuracy of the inventory, quantifying the emissions that are not yet captured, and refining base data and estimation techniques. See Chapter 3 of the present report for more information on the black carbon inventory development.

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