Canada’s Air Pollutant Emissions Inventory Report 2021: executive summary

This is an inventory of pollutants released into the air from 1990 to 2019.

Executive summary

Canada’s Air Pollutant Emissions Inventory (APEI) has been prepared and published by Environment and Climate Change Canada since 1973. The APEI is a comprehensive inventory of anthropogenic emissions of 17 air pollutants at the national, provincial and territorial levels. This inventory serves many purposes: it fulfills Canada’s international reporting obligations under the 1979 Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) and the associated protocols ratified by Canada for the reduction of emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), fine particulate matter (PM2.5), cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dioxins and furans, and other persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The APEI also reports emissions of additional air pollutants including ammonia (NH3), carbon monoxide (CO), coarse particulate matter (PM10) and total particulate matter (TPM). In addition, the APEI supports monitoring and reporting obligations under the Canada-U.S. Air Quality Agreement and the development of air quality management strategies, policies and regulations, provides data for air quality forecasting, and informs Canadians about pollutants that affect their health and the environment.

The APEI is compiled from many different data sources. Emission data reported by individual facilities to Environment and Climate Change Canada’s National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) and, to a lesser extent, data provided directly by the provinces are supplemented with well-documented, science-based estimation tools and methodologies to quantify total emissions. Together, these data sources provide a comprehensive coverage of air pollutant emissions across Canada.

This edition of the APEI Report summarizes the most recent estimates of air pollutant emissions for 1990 to 2019, as of February 2021. The inventory indicates that emissions of 14 of the 17 reported air pollutants are decreasing compared to historical levels, and specifically indicates that:Footnote 1

Canada’s air pollution emission trends (1990 to 2019)

A few key sources of pollutants account for a significant portion of the downward trends in pollutant emissions in Canada. In particular:

Despite significant decreases in emissions of most pollutants, since 2005 emissions of particulate matter have risen by 49% (TPM), 44% (PM10) and 25% (PM2.5). These increases are largely due to increased transportation on unpaved roads as well as construction operations. Another exception to the general downward trends is the steady increase in emissions of NH3, which in 2019 were 20% above 1990 levels although 3% below 2005 levels. The upward trend in NH3 emissions is driven by fertilizer use and animal production.

Irrespective of the downward trends observed in Canadian emissions, air quality issues may still arise when emissions sources are spatially concentrated. While the APEI provides valuable information on emissions within Canada, it does not distinguish localized sources of emissions within the provincial and territorial level aggregations.

Canada’s air emissions regulations and non-regulatory measures

Downward trends in emissions of air pollutants reflect the ongoing implementation of a wide range of regulatory and non-regulatory instruments that aim to reduce or eliminate pollutants in order to improve and maintain air quality in Canada. Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) related to the 17 APEI pollutants include, but are not limited to, the following:

A number of greenhouse gas regulations are also expected to achieve significant co-benefit reductions in air pollutants, including Canada’s Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Coal-fired Generation of Electricity Regulations.

Non-regulatory instruments include guidelines for stationary combustion turbines, as well as codes of practice, performance agreements, and/or pollution prevention planning notices for various sectors. These instruments address emissions from a number of sectors including aluminium, iron, steel and ilmenite, iron ore pellets, potash, base-metals smelting and refining, and pulp and paper.

All regulations and non-regulatory instruments administered under CEPA 1999 are available on the registry and on the Department of Justice’s online consolidation of federal acts and regulations.

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