Canada’s Greenhouse Gas and Air Pollutant Emissions Projections Report 2018: Backgrounder

Canada’s commitments

The Government of Canada has published Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions projections annually since 2011. These projections provide a conservative estimate of expected levels of Canada’s GHG emissions out to 2030, based on existing and planned actions. This year’s report for the first time looks at projections of not only GHG emissions, but also air pollutant emissions, including black carbon, which is a short-lived climate pollutant.

The Government regularly updates its emissions projections to meet reporting requirements under international agreements including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, and the Arctic Council Framework for Action on Enhanced Black Carbon and Methane Emissions Reductions.

The report projects that Canada’s GHG emissions will decline over the next 12 years. A wide range of policies, programs and investments implemented under Canada’s climate plan have led to the biggest improvement to Canada’s emissions outlook since reporting began.

National action to fight climate change and grow the economy

In 2016, the Government of Canada worked with provinces and territories, and with input from Indigenous Peoples, to develop the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, our plan to meet Canada’s Paris Agreement target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, to a level of 513 megatonnes (Mt).

The Pan-Canadian Framework outlines more than 50 concrete measures to reduce GHG emissions, help us adapt and become more resilient to the impacts of a changing climate, foster clean technology solutions, and create good jobs that contribute to a stronger economy.

Our plan includes a pan-Canadian approach to pricing carbon pollution, and actions to achieve reductions across all sectors of the economy. It aims to drive innovation and growth by increasing technology development and adoption to ensure Canadian businesses are competitive in the global low-carbon economy. It also includes actions to advance climate change adaptation and build resilience to climate impacts across the country. For more information on Canada’s climate plan, please visit the Canada's climate plan page.

The contribution of forestry and other land uses to reducing emissions

Certain land use activities—including sustainable forest management and the conservation of natural areas—can help to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

This year’s Greenhouse Gas and Air Pollutant Emissions Projections Report reflects the contribution that the forestry and land-use sector makes to reducing Canada’s projected emissions. These are accounted for using internationally-recognized methods adopted by the 28 EU member states and many other countries, including New Zealand and Switzerland. It is projected that this sector—known as Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)—will reduce Canada’s emissions by 24 Mt in 2030.

Further reductions in emissions from this sector – primarily through stored carbon in forests – may occur in the future as the Government of Canada moves forward with its commitments to double the amount of natural areas that are protected.

Canada’s GHG projections and progress to Paris target

Canada’s Greenhouse Gas and Air Pollutant Emissions Projections Report – 2018 outlines how Canada will progress to its Paris Agreement target. The report presents Canada’s GHG emissions projections under three separate scenarios.

First, a Reference Case scenario shows projected GHG emissions based on federal, provincial and territorial policies and measures that were in place as of September 2018. Under this scenario, emissions are projected to be 701 Mt by 2030 (without LULUCF).

Compared to the previous Reference Case scenario published in 2017, the latest shows an improvement of 21 Mt. This progress is driven by measures that were implemented in 2018, including

  • regulations to accelerate the phase-out of coal-fired electricity by 2030;
  • Natural Resources Canada’s industrial energy management program; and
  • actions taken by provinces and territories under the federal Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund.

With the contribution from LULUCF accounting, the Reference Case scenario emissions in 2030 are reduced to 677 Mt.

The second scenario, the Additional Measures Case, includes federal, provincial and territorial policies and measures that have been announced but not yet fully implemented as of September 2018. This includes the federal pollution pricing backstop, the Clean Fuel Standard, and the Low Carbon Economy Challenge Fund.

Under the Additional Measures scenario, emissions are projected to be 616 Mt by 2030 (without LULUCF). In comparison to Canada’s 2017 projections, key changes this year reflect evolving provincial climate policies, most notably Ontario’s rollback of its GHG reduction target by 30 Mt and the repeal of its cap-and-trade legislation. Also reflected in this year’s report are updated forecasts of population growth, and oil and gas prices and production.

With the contribution from LULUCF accounting, the Additional Measures scenario emissions in 2030 are reduced to 592 Mt. This amounts to a 223 Mt improvement in Canada’s emissions forecast compared to projections prior to the adoption and implementation of Canada’s 2016 climate plan under the Pan-Canadian Framework. This decline, equivalent to approximately 30% of Canada's emissions in 2016, encompasses all economic sectors, demonstrating the effectiveness of Canada’s climate plan.

It is expected that GHG projections will continue to decline in the near to medium term, especially because current estimates do not include the full reductions from investments being made by federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments in public transit and clean technology.

It is also important to note that these emission projections do not take into consideration emerging and future mitigation measures that could be implemented between now and 2030. As the federal government, provinces and territories develop and implement additional mitigation measures—such as those announced in British Columbia’s recent CleanBC plan—emissions reductions from new actions will be included in projections.

A final GHG emissions scenario included in the Projections Report for the first time is the Technology Case. This third scenario provides an indication of the potential impact of increasedtechnological progress and deployment than the more conservative pace assumed in the Reference and Additional Measures scenarios.

National action to reduce air pollution

Canada has come a long way in reducing its emissions of air pollutants. The government is continuing to work to achieve further reductions.

The federal government is working with the provinces and territories to implement the Air Quality Management System, adopted by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment of federal, provincial and territorial governments in 2012. In 2013, more stringent ambient air quality standards were established for fine particulate matter and ground level ozone, the main components of smog. Then in 2017, these were updated to include new standards for nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.

Emissions requirements are now in place for several industrial sectors and equipment types. In 2016, the Multi-Sector Air Pollutants Regulations were published to establish mandatory requirements for boilers, heaters and engines used in industrial facilities as well as the cement sector. Proposed regulations to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds from key sources in the petroleum sector―namely oil sands facilities, petrochemical manufacturing plants, and petroleum refineries―are expected to be published in 2019. Canada also expects to publish proposed regulations on stationary diesel engines, which are significant emitters of black carbon in the Canadian Arctic. Many non-regulatory instruments establish national standards to reduce air pollutants from industrial sources.

Air Pollutant Emissions Projections and Targets

The air pollutant projections from the Reference Case scenario indicate that most air pollutant emissions are expected to decline due to the policies and measures that Canada has already implemented. These will reduce both air pollution and energy consumption.

The Reference Case projects that, in 2020, emissions of sulphur oxides, volatile organic compounds and fine particulate matter will be below the 2020 targets Canada committed to under the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution. Current projections of nitrogen oxides suggest a possibility that emissions could temporarily exceed the indicative target around 2020.

Measures to reduce GHG emissions under the Pan-Canadian Framework that are included in the Additional Measures scenario are expected to have positive impacts on air pollutants. However, they have not yet been integrated into the air pollutant projections presented in the report, as only a Reference Case for air pollutants is presented. Actual emissions are therefore likely to be lower than the levels projected in this report. Canada will continue to work to meet its 2020 commitments.

On black carbon, Canada committed to reduce emissions collectively with other Arctic States by at least 25–33% below 2013 levels by 2025. Canada emitted 43 kilotonnes of black carbon in 2013. Emissions of black carbon are projected to decrease. Current projections indicate that Canada will emit about 30 kilotonnes of black carbon in 2025, or 30% below 2013 levels, which is consistent with the collective Arctic Council goal.

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