Greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions projections: 2019

Since 2011, Environment and Climate Change Canada has published annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions projections. Every two years, the projections are included as part of Canada’s Biennial Report submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The 2019 emissions projections update will be published as part of Canada’s 4th Biennial Report (BR4) and submitted to the UNFCCC by January 1, 2020. This report also includes projections for major air-pollutant emissions.

The report projects an overall decline in Canada’s GHG emissions over the next 11 years. A wide range of policies, programs and investments implemented since 2016 under Canada’s climate plan, and the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, have led to the biggest improvement to the country’s emissions outlook since reporting began.

The graph below summarizes GHG projections under two different scenarios, the Reference Case and Additional Measures Case, and compares them to the 2015 Reference Case projections that the government presented in Canada's BR2 (2015)–the last year before the Pan-Canadian Framework was established. In accordance with UNFCCC guidelines, in the BR4 the Reference Case is referred to as the “with measures” scenario, and the Additional Measures case is referred to as the “with additional measures” scenario.

Graph 1: Canada’s 2019 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Projections

Long description
Canada’s 2019 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Projections (Values in Mt CO2 eq.)
Year 2019 NIR 2015 Reference Case (BR2) 2019 Reference Case (BR4) 2019 Additional Measures Case (BR4) With LULUCF 2030 Target
2005 730 - - - - -
2006 721 - - - - -
2007 744 - - - - -
2008 723 - - - - -
2009 682 - - - - -
2010 693 - - - - -
2011 703 - - - - -
2012 711 - - - - -
2013 722 - - - - -
2014 723 727 - - - -
2015 722 735 - - - -
2016 708 747 - - - -
2017 716 754 - - - -
2018 - 760 723 723 - -
2019 - 763 720 720 - -
2020 - 766 705 693 - -
2021 - 769 694 680 - -
2022 - 773 684 665 - -
2023 - 782 673 649 - -
2024 - 788 670 641 - -
2025 - 791 674 638 - -
2026 - 797 676 635 - -
2027 - 799 676 627 - -
2028 - 805 676 621 - -
2029 - 811 676 611 - -
2030 - 815 673 603 588 511

The 2019 Reference Case projects GHG emissions based on federal, provincial, and territorial policies and measures that were in place as of September 2019. This projection assumes governments take no further climate action from September 2019 on. Under this scenario, emissions would be 673 million tonnes in 2030, a 28 million tonnes improvement from the 2018 projections.

The 2019 Additional Measures Case considers all federal, provincial, and territorial policies and measures from the Reference Case as well as those that have been announced but not yet fully implemented as of September 2019. An example of such a measure would be the Clean Fuel Standard, which is being developed but is not yet implemented. Under the Additional Measures Case, emissions are projected to be 603 million tonnes by 2030.

The report also includes a Technology Case. This is an exploratory scenario that includes more optimistic assumptions about clean technology adoption in a number of sectors. Under this scenario, emissions would be 13 million tonnes lower in 2030 than in the Additional Measures Case.

Certain forestry and land-use activities, including sustainable forest management and the conservation of natural areas, can help reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The contribution from Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) is projected to reduce Canada’s emissions by a further 15 million tonnes in 2030, bringing the total to 588 million tonnes. This is 227 million tonnes below the 2015 report projections (BR2). The Federal government recently committed to implementing nature-based climate solutions, including the commitment to conserve 25 percent of Canada’s land and 25 percent of Canada’s oceans by 2025, and to plant two billion trees by 2030.

This projection of 588 million tonnes by 2030 is 4 million tonnes below last year’s forecast of 592 million tonnes. This progress is primarily driven by measures implemented in 2019, like pricing carbon pollution, the Energy Innovation Program, the CleanBC plan, and projects developed with provinces and territories under the Low Carbon Economy Challenge Fund. Emissions reductions due to the inclusion of these new measures are partly offset by a lower LULUCF accounting contribution of 15 million tonnes, instead of the 24 million tonnes last year. The LULUCF contribution is regularly updated to account for improvements in data quality and methodology. In this case, the change in estimate is mostly due to improved representation of the effects of the Mountain Pine Beetle outbreak in British Columbia in the early 2000s and new agriculture census data.  Due to methodological revisions to Canada’s 2005 emissions, Canada’s 2030 GHG target of 30% below 2005 levels was revised downwards to 511 million tonnes from 513 million tonnes last year. In terms of overall progress to the target, this means that the future reductions required to meet the 2030 target has narrowed by 2 million tonnes, to 77 million tonnes under the current projections from 79 million tonnes last year.

Environment and Climate Change Canada expects that GHG projections will continue to decline towards the 2030 target. Current estimates do not yet fully account for future reductions from green infrastructure, clean technology and innovation. In addition, new commitments, as indicated in the December 2019 Minister’s mandate letters, are not yet included in the 2019 projections. These include efforts to increase clean electricity, greener buildings and communities, electrification of transportation, and nature-based climate solutions. As policies to meet these commitments are elaborated and these initiatives are implemented, they will be included in Canada’s annual emissions modelling reporting. Actual emission reductions from these commitments will depend on the details of how the future policies and measures are designed, including how they will interact with each other and with other existing measures. However, we do know they can deliver important greenhouse gas reductions.

For example, Canada’s 2019 greenhouse gas projections indicate that a faster-than-anticipated uptake of a set of clean technologies could reduce emissions by 13 million tonnes in 2030. Further, if energy-saving retrofits took place in an additional 2% of residential buildings every year, and these savings reduced emissions by 10% to 15% on average, we could reduce emissions by around 1.2 million tonnes in 2030. Lastly, a report from Navius indicated that if 100% of new light-duty vehicles sales were ZEVs by 2030, this would result in about 10 Mt of reduction in 2030. Electrifying all existing and new public transit buses and trains fleets could achieve additional reductions of 1.5Mt.

The graph below illustrates the projected decline in the country’s emissions as Canadians take widespread action across all sectors, reflecting the breadth and depth of Canada’s climate plan.

Graph 2: Progress to Canada’s 2030 emissions target (2015 to 2019)

Long description
Progress to Canada’s 2030 emissions target (2015 to 2019)
Element Mt CO2 eq.
Starting point (BR2) 815
Buildings -47
Oil and Gas -43
Electricity -40
Heavy Industry -27
Transportation -23
Waste and Others -17
Agriculture -2
WCI Credits -13
Future Reductions -77
Target 511

Future Reductions:

  • Efforts to increase clean electricity, greener buildings and communities, electrification of transportation, and nature-based climate solutions.   
  • Greater than anticipated clean technology adoption; one possible scenario is highlighted in the Technology Case.   

How Canada is reducing emissions

Canada’s climate plan outlines over 50 concrete measures to reduce carbon pollution, help Canadians adapt and become more resilient to the impacts of a changing climate, and foster clean technology solutions.

Since its adoption in 2016, strong progress has been made in implementing the Pan-Canadian Framework. For example, the Government of Canada has:

The development of the Pan-Canadian Framework was just the beginning. Science indicates that more action is needed. As such, the Government of Canada recently announced its intent to exceed Canada’s 2030 Paris Agreement target and begin work so that Canada can achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.


Page details

Date modified: