Greenhouse gas sources and sinks in Canada: executive summary 2022

An inventory of the greenhouse gases in Canada for the year.

ES.1 Key points

After fluctuations in recent years, Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions decreased to 672 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) in 2020 (the most recent year for which data are available for this report), net decreases of 66 Mt or 8.9% from 2019 and 69 Mt or 9.3% from 2005.

The year 2020 was marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, coinciding with a decrease in emissions of 66 Mt or 8.9% across numerous sectors. Notable examples include Transport (-27 Mt or -12%) largely due to fewer kilometers driven and a decrease in air traffic; and Public Electricity and Heat Production (-7.4 Mt or -11%) due to decreased coal consumption partially offset by an increase in natural gas consumption.

During the period covered by this report (1990–2020), Canada’s economy grew more rapidly than its GHG emissions. As a result, the emissions intensity for the entire economy (GHG per gross domestic product [GDP]) has declined by 39% since 1990 and by 26% since 2005. The decline in emissions intensity can be attributed to fuel switching, increases in efficiency, the modernization of industrial processes and structural changes in the economy. The drivers for these changes include continued implementation and strengthening of efforts to reduce emissions by all levels of government within Canada.

Continuous improvement is a key principle underlying Canada’s annual greenhouse gas inventory. Important methodological improvements are being implemented in this edition of the National Inventory Report (NIR) (e.g. fugitive methane emissions from upstream oil and gas and emissions from agricultural soils), and additional improvements are being considered for future editions (e.g. emissions and removals from managed forest land, and emissions from transport). The enhanced methods use Canadian-specific studies and knowledge, facilitate the adoption of new scientific data, and better capture the impact of improvements in technologies and industry practices on emissions.

ES.2 Introduction

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international treaty established in 1992 to cooperatively address climate change issues. The ultimate objective of the UNFCCC is to stabilize atmospheric GHG concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate system. Canada ratified the UNFCCC in December 1992, and the Convention came into force in March 1994.

To achieve its objective and implement its provisions, the UNFCCC sets out several guiding principles and commitments. Specifically, Articles 4 and 12 commit all Parties to develop, periodically update, publish and make available to the Conference of the Parties their national inventories of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of all GHGs not controlled by the Montreal Protocol, with the exception of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).Footnote 1

Canada’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory is prepared and submitted annually to the UNFCCC by April 15 of each year in accordance with the revised Guidelines for the Preparation of National Communications by Parties Included in Annex I to the Convention, Part I: UNFCCC Reporting Guidelines on Annual Inventories (UNFCCC Reporting Guidelines), adopted through Decision 24/CP.19 in 2013. The annual inventory submission consists of the NIR and the Common Reporting Format (CRF) tables.

The GHG inventory includes emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), HFCs, sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) in the following five sectors: Energy; Industrial Processes and Product Use (IPPU); Agriculture; Waste; and Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF). The GHG emission and removal estimates contained in Canada’s GHG inventory are developed using methodologies consistent with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2006 Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. In line with the principle of continuous improvement, the underlying data and methodology for estimating emissions are revised over time; hence, total emissions in all years are subject to change as both data and methods are improved.

Significant improvements to NIR estimates are anticipated in future editions of this report, notably related to emissions and removals from managed forest land, and emissions from on-road and off-road transport. For more details on planned inventory improvements, please refer to Chapter 8.

In 2021, Canada formally submitted its enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the United Nations, committing Canada to cut its GHG emissions to 40‑45% below 2005 levels by 2030. This target represents a significant increase in ambition over its previous NDC, submitted in 2015, of reducing emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Since 2005 was adopted as a base year for Canada’s targets, many of the metrics in this report are presented in that context, in addition to the 1990 base year as required by the UNFCCC Reporting Guidelines.

Canada’s action on climate change

Canada is on a path to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, through the raising of climate and economic ambition since 2015 supported by extensive national climate efforts – including the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (2016), the Strengthened Climate Plan (2020), Canada’s enhanced 2030 target (2021), and the enactment of the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act (2021). Prior to these efforts, Canada’s emissions were on a steady upwards climb and were projected to increase 12% above 2005 levels by 2030. The Government of Canada was required under the Act to establish the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) by the end of March 2022, to outline Canada’s approach to reaching a reduction of 40–45% below 2005 levels by 2030, as committed to in Canada’s NDC, and setting Canada on a path to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change

Canada’s first-ever national climate plan, the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (PCF), was adopted in 2016. The PCF was developed in collaboration with Canada’s provinces and territories, and in consultation with national Indigenous organizations, stakeholders, and Canadians.

In addition to the price on carbon pollution – among the most stringent in the world – the PCF included more than 50 measures to drive down Canada’s emissions, help build resilience across the country, and support climate innovation for clean economic growth. Progress on implementation of these measures has been reported through annual Synthesis Reports.

A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy – Canada’s strengthened climate plan

In December 2020, the Government of Canada introduced its Strengthened Climate Plan – A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy. This strengthened climate plan detailed a series of commitments, building on PCF measures, to reduce emissions to 31% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Significant investments have been made to support the implementation of measures in the PCF and the Strengthened Climate Plan. This includes $15 billion in additional funding for public and active transportation announced in February 2021, and an additional $17.6 billion committed to through Canada’s federal Budget 2021 in support green economic recovery, while helping to address emissions from heavy industry and from buildings.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act

While Canada has made significant progress in reducing emissions to 2030, it has also laid a strong foundation for the deeper reductions needed to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

With the enactment of the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act (CNZEAA) in June 2021, Canada has now put in place the legislative requirements that will underpin a transparent and accountable process to long-term emissions reduction planning, an approach that will incorporate consultation with Canadians, provinces and territories, and Indigenous peoples, and be informed by expert advice.

Emissions Reduction Plan

Pursuant to the CNZEAA, the Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) includes key measures the Government intends to take to achieve the 2030 target, an interim GHG emissions objective for 2026, an overview of relevant sectoral strategies, and a projected timetable for implementation of measures. The Government engaged with provinces, territories, Indigenous peoples, the Net-Zero Advisory Body, and interested Canadians to identify what is needed to reach Canada’s climate objectives. Full participation from Canadians and all sectors of the economy is essential for building an effective pathway to achieve Canada’s 2030 and 2050 climate goals and a prosperous economy.

Net-Zero Advisory Body

On February 25, 2021, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change launched the Net-Zero Advisory Body (NZAB), an independent group of experts with a mandate to provide independent advice with respect to achieving Canada’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050. Further information on the current activities and forward-looking plans can be found on its website.

Conclusion

Canada’s National Inventory Report, along with other reports such as Canada’s National Communications and Biennial Reports, the greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions projections (also submitted to the UNFCCC), annual synthesis reports on the status of implementation of the PCF, and future legislated reports, all support Canada’s assessment of its progress in reducing emissions and combatting climate change.

Section ES.3 of this Executive Summary provides the latest information on Canada’s net anthropogenic GHG emissions over the 2005–2020 period and links this information to relevant indicators of the Canadian economy. Section ES.4 outlines the major trends in emissions.

For the purposes of analyzing economic trends and policies, it is useful to allocate emissions to the economic sector from which they originate. Section ES.5 presents Canada’s emissions broken down by the following economic sectors: Oil and Gas, Electricity, Transport, Heavy Industry, Buildings, Agriculture, and Waste and others.Footnote 2  Throughout this report, the word “sector” generally refers to activity sectors as defined by the IPCC for national GHG inventories; exceptions occur when the expression “economic sectors” is used in reference to the Canadian context.

Section ES.6 details GHG emissions for Canada’s 13 sub-national jurisdictions. Finally, section ES.7 provides some detail on the components of this submission and outlines key elements of its preparation.

ES.3 Overview, national greenhouse gas emissions

After fluctuations in recent years, Canada’s GHG emissions were 672 Mt CO2 eqFootnote 3  in 2020 (the most recent year for which data are available for this report), a net decrease of 69 Mt or 9.3% from 2005 emissions (Figure ES–1).Footnote 4  Emission trends since 2005 have remained consistent with previous editions of the NIR, with emission increases in the Oil and Gas and Transport sectors being offset by decreases in other sectors, notably Electricity and Heavy Industry.

In general, year-to-year fluctuations are superimposed over actual trends observed over a longer time period. During the period covered in this report, Canada’s economy grew more rapidly than its GHG emissions. As a result, the emissions intensity for the entire economy (GHG per GDP) has declined by 39% since 1990 and by 26% since 2005 (Figure ES–1 and Table ES–1). The decline in emissions intensity can be attributed to fuel switching, increases in efficiency, the modernization of industrial processes and structural changes in the economy.

Of note is a decrease of 66 Mt between the years 2019 and 2020, coinciding with the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. This decrease occurred in numerous sectors, most notably Transport (-27 Mt or -12%), Stationary Combustion (-22 Mt or -6.8%), and Fugitive Sources (-17 Mt or -25%). The decrease in Transport emissions includes decreases in Light-Duty Gasoline Vehicles and Trucks (-15 Mt or -17%) and domestic Aviation (-3.8 Mt or -44%). These are linked to a decrease in the vehicle kilometres traveled (VKT) in the light-duty vehicles and trucks categories, and a decrease in air traffic in 2020 relative to 2019. Fugitive sources include emissions decreases from venting (-11 Mt), and leaks from oil (-3 Mt) and natural gas production and processing facilities (-2 Mt). Within Stationary Combustion Sources, decreases in Public Electricity and Heat Production (-7.4 Mt or -11%) were due to decreased coal consumption partially offset by an increase in natural gas consumption; decreases in Manufacturing Industries (-4.5 Mt or -11%) can be partially attributed to plants that closed, temporarily and permanently, during the first year of the pandemic. Temporary shut-down of some plants can also only partially explain the decrease in the Industrial and Processes and Product Use sector (-3.1 Mt or -6.0%) between 2019 and 2020.

The emissions trends and their drivers are summarized in the remainder of this Executive Summary and are described in greater detail in Chapter 2 of this report.

Figure ES–1: Canadian greenhouse gas emissions and indexed trend emissions intensity (excluding Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry)

Figure ES–1 (See long description below)

Notes:
Emissions do not yet reflect the impact of the most recent mitigation policies. Total emissions fall within a 2% uncertainty range.
GDP Data Source: StatCan (n.d.[a])

Long description for Figure ES–1

Figure ES–1 is a line graph displaying actual GHG emissions for 1990 to 2020 (Mt CO2 eq) on one line and indexed trends of GHG emissions per GDP (emissions intensity) on another (Index 1990 = 100). The figure shows that GHG emissions were increasing slowly over time, but reduced back to 2009 level in 2020. The emissions intensity index though was decreasing constantly during the whole period from 100 in 1990 up to about 60 in 2020. The following table displays both GHG emissions and indexed GHG emissions per GDP from 1990 to 2020.

Canadian greenhouse gas emissions and indexed trend emissions intensity (excluding Land Use,
Land-Use Change and Forestry)
Year GHG emissions (Mt CO2 eq) Indexed GHG per GDP (emissions intensity)
1990 595 100
1991 588 101
1992 605 103
1993 608 101
1994 628 99
1995 645 100
1996 667 101
1997 682 99
1998 689 96
1999 702 93
2000 727 91
2001 718 89
2002 724 87
2003 743 88
2004 745 85
2005 741 82
2006 735 80
2007 757 80
2008 739 78
2009 698 76
2010 710 75
2011 721 74
2012 726 73
2013 732 72
2014 730 70
2015 733 69
2016 715 67
2017 725 66
2018 740 65
2019 738 64
2020 672 61

Note for Table ES–1:
NA = Not applicable

Table ES–1: Trends in greenhouse gas emissions and economic indicators, selected years
Year 2005 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Total GHG (Mt) 741 733 715 725 740 738 672
Change since 2005 (%) NA -1.2% -3.5% -2.2% -0.2% -0.4% -9.3%
GDPa (Billion 2012$) 1 654 1 938 1 953 2 022 2 086 2 126 2 024
Change since 2005 (%) NA 17% 18% 22% 26% 29% 22%
GHG Intensity (Mt/$B GDP) 0.45 0.38 0.37 0.36 0.35 0.35 0.33
Change since 2005 (%) NA -16% -18% -20% -21% -23% -26%

Note:
a. Data Source: StatCan (n.d.[a])

In 2020, the Energy sector (consisting of Stationary Combustion, Transport and Fugitive Sources) emitted 540 Mt, or 80% of Canada’s total GHG emissions (Figure ES–2). The remaining emissions were largely generated by the Agriculture and IPPU sectors (8.2% and 7.5%, respectively), with contributions from the Waste sector (4.1%) and the LULUCF sector removed 6.8 Mt from the atmosphere.

Canada’s emissions profile is similar to that of most industrialized countries, in that CO2 is the largest contributor to total emissions, accounting for 535 Mt or 80% of total emissions in 2020 (Figure ES–3). The majority of CO2 emissions in Canada result from the combustion of fossil fuels. CH4 emissions in 2020 amounted to 92 Mt or 14% of Canada’s total. These emissions consist largely of fugitive emissions from oil and natural gas systems, agriculture and landfills. N2O emissions mostly arise from agricultural soil management and accounted for 33 Mt or 4.9% of Canada’s emissions in 2020. Emissions of synthetic gases (HFCs, PFCs, SF6 and NF3) accounted for slightly less than 2% of national emissions.

Figure ES–2: Breakdown of Canada’s emissions by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sector (2020)

Figure ES–2 (See long description below)

Total: 672 Mt CO2 eq
Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding.

Long description for Figure ES–2

Figure ES–2 is a pie chart displaying the breakdown of Canada's GHG emissions by six Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sectors for 2020. These sectors are the following: Energy – Stationary Combustion Sources, Energy – Transport, Energy – Fugitive Sources, Industrial Processes and Product Use, Agriculture, and Waste. Stationary combustion sources contributed 45% to the total national emissions in 2020 followed by Transport (28%). Shares of Industrial processes, agriculture and energy fugitive sources were almost equivalent. The smallest contributor was Waste sector. The following table displays the breakdown of the GHG emissions (Mt CO2 eq) for the six sectors for 2020.

Breakdown of Canada’s emissions by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sector (2020)
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sector Mt CO2 eq % of Total
Total 672 100%
Energy – Stationary Combustion Sources 300 45%
Energy – Transport 190 28%
Energy – Fugitive Sources 50 7.4%
Industrial Processes and Product Use 50 7.5%
Agriculture 55 8.2%
Waste 27 4.1%

Figure ES–3: Breakdown of Canada’s emissions by greenhouse gas (2020)

Figure ES–3 (See long description below)

Total: 672 Mt CO2 eq
Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding.

Long description for Figure ES–3

Figure ES–3 is a pie chart displaying the breakdown of Canada’s emissions by GHG for 2020. The seven GHGs are the following: CO2, CH4, N2O, HFCs, PFCs, SF6 and NF3. The chart shows that 80% of emissions fell on CO2 followed by CH4. Share of N2O was smaller, whereas all other gases contributed only 1.9% in 2020 all together. The following table displays the breakdown of the GHG emissions (Mt CO2 eq) (%) for 2020.

Breakdown of Canada’s emissions by greenhouse gas (2020)
Gas Mt CO2 eq % of total
Total 672 100%
CO2 535 80%
CH4 92 14%
N2O 33 4.9%
HFCs, PFCs, SF6 and NF3 13 1.9%

Canada accounted for approximately 1.6% of global GHG emissions in 2018 (Climate Watch, 2021), although it is one of the highest per capita emitters. Canada’s per capita emissions have declined since 2005 from 23.0 t CO2 eq/capita to a new low of 17.7 t CO2 eq/capita in 2020 (Figure ES–4).

Figure ES–4: Canadian per capita greenhouse gas emissions (2005 to 2020)

Figure ES–4 (See long description below)

Note:
Population data source – StatCan (n.d. [b])

Long description for Figure ES–4

Figure ES–4 is a bar chart displaying the Canadian per capita GHG emissions from 2005 to 2020. The chart shows that per capita emissions decreased from 23.0 to 17.7 t CO2 eq per person. The following table displays the emissions per capita (t CO2 eq/capita) from 2005 to 2020.

Canadian per capita greenhouse gas emissions (2005 to 2020)
Year Greenhouse gas emissions/capita (t CO2 eq/capita)
2005 23.0
2006 22.6
2007 23.0
2008 22.2
2009 20.7
2010 20.9
2011 21.0
2012 20.9
2013 20.9
2014 20.6
2015 20.5
2016 19.8
2017 19.8
2018 20.0
2019 19.6
2020 17.7

ES.4 Greenhouse gas emissions and trends by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sector

Trends in emissions

Over the 2005–2020 period, total emissions have decreased by 69 Mt or 9.3% (Figure ES–5). Two sources of the Energy sector dominated this trend, with emission decreases of 23 Mt (32%) in Fugitive Sources and 39 Mt (12%) in Stationary Combustion Sources (Table ES–2). Over the same period, emissions have decreased by 6.3 Mt (11%) in the IPPU sector and 1.4 Mt (4.8%) in the Waste sector. Moreover, emissions from Transport (also in the Energy sector) have generally increased from 2005 to 2019 and decreased between 2019 and 2020, bringing the 2020 emissions to a level similar to 2005 (0.07 Mt or 0.0% increase). The Agriculture sector emissions have remained relatively stable with 0.98 Mt or 1.8% increase (Figure ES–6).

Figure ES–5: Trends in Canadian greenhouse gas emissions by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sector (2005 to 2020)

Figure ES–5 (See long description below)
Long description for Figure ES–5

Figure ES–5 is a bar chart displaying the trends in Canadian GHG emissions by seven Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sectors from 2005 to 2020. The seven IPCC sectors are the following: Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF), Energy – Stationary Combustion, Energy – Transport, Energy – Fugitive Sources, Industrial Process and Product Use (IPPU), Agriculture, and Waste. The chart shows that the biggest contributor was Stationary Combustion followed by Transport in all years. LULUCF was a net sink in all years absorbing a small part of emissions in 2020. The following table displays the trends in the GHG emissions (Mt CO2 eq) for all seven sectors from 2005 to 2020.

Trends in Canadian greenhouse gas emissions by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sector (2005 to 2020) (Mt CO2 eq)
Year Energy – Stationary Combustion Energy – Transport Energy – Fugitive Sources Industrial Process and Product Use Agriculture Waste Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry
2005 339 190 73 57 54 29 -4.2
2006 330 189 76 57 53 29 -18
2007 353 192 75 56 53 28 -16
2008 339 192 74 55 52 28 -22
2009 317 187 69 48 50 27 -49
2010 318 194 72 51 50 26 -18
2011 324 195 73 54 49 26 -11
2012 319 195 75 58 51 26 -24
2013 320 201 76 56 53 26 -20
2014 322 199 78 54 51 26 -39
2015 325 201 74 54 52 26 -0.08
2016 313 200 68 55 53 26 -11
2017 318 208 68 53 52 27 -17
2018 323 215 68 54 53 27 -8.5
2019 322 216 66 53 53 27 -16
2020 300 190 50 50 55 27 -6.8

Chapter 2 provides more information on GHG emissions trends since 1990 and 2005 and their drivers.Footnote 5  Further breakdowns of emissions and a complete time series can be found on the Government of Canada’s Open Data website.

Note for Table ES–2:
Totals may not add up due to rounding.

Table ES–2: Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sector, selected years, Total (Mt CO2 eq)
Year 2005 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Totala, b 741 733 715 725 740 738 672

Notes:
a. National totals calculated in this table do not include removals reported in LULUCF.
b. This summary data is presented in more detail on the Government of Canada’s Open Data website.

Energy sector (Mt CO2 eq)
Sub-sector Category 2005 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Total nil 602 600 581 594 606 604 540
a. Stationary Combustion Sources nil 339 325 313 318 323 322 300
a. Stationary Combustion Sources Public Electricity and Heat Production 125 88 81 79 71 70 62
a. Stationary Combustion Sources Petroleum Refining Industries 20 16 16 15 15 16 14
a. Stationary Combustion Sources Oil and Gas Extraction 63 98 94 98 104 104 100
a. Stationary Combustion Sources Mining 4.4 4.6 4.4 5.0 6.5 6.4 6.0
a. Stationary Combustion Sources Manufacturing Industries 48 44 42 43 43 43 39
a. Stationary Combustion Sources Construction 1.4 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.4 1.4 1.4
a. Stationary Combustion Sources Commercial and Institutional 32 30 32 34 36 38 36
a. Stationary Combustion Sources Residential 43 41 38 40 44 41 38
a. Stationary Combustion Sources Agriculture and Forestry 2.2 3.0 3.2 3.1 3.2 3.5 3.1
b. Transport nil 190 201 200 208 215 216 190
b. Transport Aviation 7.7 7.6 7.5 7.9 8.7 8.6 4.8
b. Transport Road Transportation 130 142 145 148 152 153 131
b. Transport Railways 6.6 7.1 6.5 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.2
b. Transport Marine 4.0 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.8 4.4 4.2
b. Transport Other Transportation 42 41 38 41 43 43 43
c. Fugitive Sources nil 73 74 68 68 68 66 50
c. Fugitive Sources Coal Mining 1.4 1.1 1.3 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.1
c. Fugitive Sources Oil and Natural Gas 71 73 67 67 67 65 49
d. CO2 Transport and Storage nil <0.05 <0.05 <0.05 <0.05 <0.05 <0.05 <0.05
Industrial Processes and Product Use sector (Mt CO2 eq)
Sub-sector 2005 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Total 57 54 55 53 54 53 50
a. Mineral Products 10 8.0 7.9 8.6 8.6 8.8 8.1
b. Chemical Industry 10 6.8 7.0 6.4 6.8 6.7 6.6
c. Metal Production 20 14 15 15 15 14 13
d. Production and Consumption of Halocarbons, SF6 and NF3 5.1 11 11 11 12 12 12
e. Non-Energy Products from Fuels and Solvent Use 10 13 12 11 11 11 10
f. Other Product Manufacture and Use 0.54 0.54 0.60 0.63 0.70 0.66 0.73
Agriculture sector (Mt CO2 eq)
Sub-sector 2005 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Total 54 52 53 52 53 53 55
a. Enteric Fermentation 31 24 24 24 24 24 24
b. Manure Management 8.7 7.7 7.8 7.9 7.8 7.8 7.8
c. Agricultural Soils 13 18 18 17 19 19 21
d. Field Burning of Agricultural Residues <0.05 0.06 0.05 0.05 0.05 0.05 0.05
e. Liming, Urea Application and
Other Carbon-Containing Fertilizers
1.4 2.6 2.5 2.4 2.6 2.7 3.0
Waste sector (Mt CO2 eq)
Sub-sector 2005 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Total 29 26 26 27 27 27 27
a. Solid Waste Disposal (Landfills) 23 21 21 21 22 22 22
b. Biological Treatment of Solid Waste 0.24 0.31 0.32 0.33 0.36 0.36 0.36
c. Wastewater Treatment and Discharge 1.9 2.6 2.4 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5
d. Incineration and Open Burning of Waste 0.35 0.20 0.20 0.19 0.18 0.18 0.16
e. Industrial Wood Waste Landfills 3.3 2.5 2.4 2.4 2.3 2.2 2.2
Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry sector (Mt CO2 eq)
Sub-sector 2005 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Total - 4.2 - 0.08 - 11 - 17 - 8.5 - 16 - 6.8
a. Forest Land -135 -135 -136 -137 -134 -138 -130
b. Cropland -22 -10 -17 -23 -19 -14 -9.6
c. Grassland <0.05 <0.05 <0.05 <0.05 <0.05 <0.05 <0.05
d. Wetlands 3.1 3.0 3.1 3.1 2.8 2.9 2.9
e. Settlements 1.7 2.5 2.5 2.4 2.2 2.2 2.2
f. Harvested Wood Products 148 140 137 137 140 131 128

Figure ES–6: Changes in greenhouse gas emissions by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sector (2005 to 2020)

Figure ES–6 (See long description below)
Long description for Figure ES–6

Figure ES–6 is a bar chart displaying the total change and changes by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sectors in GHG emissions from 2005 to 2020. The IPCC sectors are the following: Energy – Stationary Combustion Energy – Transport, Energy – Fugitive Sources, Industrial Process and Product Use (IPPU), Agriculture, and Waste. The chart shows that in 2020 emissions decreased for the overall total, IPPU and Waste sectors. Also, in Energy, emissions from both Stationary Combustion and Fugitive Sources decreased, whereas emissions from Transport and Agriculture show a small increase compared to 2005 level. The following table displays the changes in the GHG emissions (Mt CO2 eq) (%) from 2005 to 2020.

Changes in emissions by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sector (2005 to 2020)
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sector Net change (2005 to 2020)
(Mt CO2 eq)
% change
(2005 to 2020)
Total -69 -9.3%
Energy – Stationary Combustion -39 -12%
Energy – Transport 0.07 0.0%
Energy – Fugitive Sources -23 -32%
Industrial Processes and Product Use -6.3 -11%
Agriculture 0.98 1.8%
Waste -1.4 -4.8%

The following describes the emissions and trends of each IPCC sector since 2005 in further detail.

Energy – 2020 greenhouse gas emissions (540 Mt)

In 2020, GHG emissions from the IPCC Energy sector (540 Mt), or 80% of Canada’s total GHG emissions, were 10% lower than in 2005 (602 Mt). Within the Energy sector, a 37 Mt increase in combustion emissions from Oil and Gas Extraction and a 1.5 Mt increase in Road Transportation emissions were largely offset by a 63 Mt decrease in emissions from Public Electricity and Heat Production, a 9.1 Mt decrease in emissions from stationary fuel consumption in Manufacturing Industries, a 5.6 Mt decrease in emissions from Petroleum Refining and a 5.3 Mt decrease in emissions in the Residential sector.

Stationary Combustion Sources (300 Mt)

Decreasing electricity generation from coal and oil (decreases of 62% and 86%, respectively) was a large driver of the 63 Mt decrease in emissions associated with Public Electricity and Heat Production between 2005 and 2020. The permanent closure of all coal generating stations in Ontario by 2014 (Ontario Power Generation Inc. [OPG], 2015) accounted for 41% of the decreased coal consumption, and reduced coal consumption in Alberta and Saskatchewan accounted for an additional 45% and 9%, respectively. Reduced coal consumption also occurred in Nova Scotia (25%), New Brunswick (58%) and Manitoba (100%). Decreased oil consumption for electricity generation in New Brunswick (97%) and Nova Scotia (97%), offset by increased consumption in Newfoundland and Labrador (11%), accounted for 98% of the reduced oil consumption. Emission fluctuations over the period reflect variations in the mix of electricity generation sources; over the time period, the amount of low-emitting generation in the mix has increased.Footnote 6

The 37 Mt increase in emissions from stationary fuel consumption in Oil and Gas Extraction is consistent with a 190% rise in the extraction of bitumen and synthetic crude oil from Canada’s oil sands operations since 2005.

Since 2005, four petroleum refineries have permanently closed or converted to terminal facilities including one each in Ontario (2005), Quebec (2010), Nova Scotia (2013) and Newfoundland and Labrador (2020) contributing to the 5.6 Mt decrease in emissions from this sector.

GHG emissions from Manufacturing Industries decreased by 9.1 Mt between 2005 and 2020, consistent with a 19% decrease in energy use (StatCan, n.d.[c]). This includes a decrease of -5.0 Mt between 2005 and 2019, and an additional -4.5 Mt between 2019 and 2020. While the decrease between 2005 and 2019 is based on decreases in certain sectors (-3.4 Mt from Other Manufacturing, -1.4 Mt in both Cement, and Pulp, Paper and Print), offset by increases in others (1.4 Mt in Chemicals), the decrease between 2019 and 2020 occurred in all Manufacturing Industries. The largest decreases are from Iron and Steel (-1.4 Mt); Other Manufacturing (-1.0 Mt) and Cement (-0.9 Mt). 

In the Residential category, decreasing consumption of light fuel oil in all provinces and territories, except Newfoundland and Labrador (4% increase) between 2005 and 2020 is the largest driver of the 5.3 Mt decrease in emissions. Quebec and Ontario account for 88% of the decrease in emissions from light fuel oil, with the remaining provinces and territories making up the remaining 12%.

Transport (190 Mt)

The majority of transport emissions in Canada are related to Road Transportation, which includes personal transportation (light-duty vehicles and trucks) and heavy-duty vehicles. The growth in road transportation emissions is largely due to more driving, exemplified by increases in the supply of diesel, in gasoline retail pump sales, and in the number of on-road vehicles. Despite a reduction in kilometres driven per vehicle, the total vehicle fleet has increased by 42% since 2005, most notably for trucks (both light- and heavy-duty), leading to more kilometres driven overall.

From 2005 to 2019, emissions from Transport have generally increased. From 2019 to 2020, Transport emissions decreased 27 Mt, bringing 2020 Transport emissions back to 2005 levels.

Fugitive Sources (50 Mt)

Since 2005, fugitive GHG emissions from fossil fuel production (coal, oil and natural gas) have decreased by 23 Mt. This includes a 6.5 Mt decrease between 2005 and 2019 that is largely the result of provincial regulations to increase conservation of natural gas (comprised mainly of CH4) as well as a 16.6 Mt decrease between 2019 and 2020 that coincides with federal regulations to reduce methane emissions from the upstream oil and gas industry and equivalent provincial regulations in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

Industrial Processes and Product Use – 2020 greenhouse gas emissions (50 Mt)

The IPPU sector covers non-energy GHG emissions that result from manufacturing processes and use of products, such as limestone calcination in cement production and the use of HFCs and PFCs as replacement refrigerants for ozone-depleting substances (ODSs). Emissions from the IPPU sector contributed 50 Mt (7.5%) to Canada’s 2020 emissions.

Between 2005 and 2020, process emissions from most IPPU categories decreased. A notable exception is the 6.8 Mt (134%) increase in emissions from the use of HFCs to replace CFCs and HCFCs before the gradual phase down of HFCs mandated under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which came into force in 2019.

Temporary shut downs of some industrial facilities in 2020 caused process emission decreases of 0.50 Mt (-7.0%) for Cement Production and of 0.15 Mt (-11%) for Lime Production, when compared to the 2019 emission values. 

Since 2005, process emissions for the iron and steel industry have reduced by 3.3 Mt (-32%) primarily due to decline in use of metallurgical coke as reductant during the pig iron production process and drop in pig iron production in 2020. The aluminium industry has also decreased its process emissions by 2.8 Mt (32%) since 2005, largely due to the implementation of technological improvements to mitigate PFC emissions and the shutdown of older smelters using Søderberg technology, the last of which was closed in 2015. Closure of primary magnesium plants in 2007 and 2008 also accounted for 1.1 Mt (92%) of the overall process emission drop (-7.2 Mt or -36%) seen in Metal Production between 2005 and 2020.

The overall decrease of 3.8 Mt (37%) of GHG emissions from chemical industries since 2005 is primarily the result of the 2009 closure of the sole Canadian adipic acid plant located in Ontario. N2O emissions abatement installations at a nitric acid production facility are responsible for a smaller proportion (1.0 Mt) of the decrease. Variations throughout the time series in petrochemical industry-related emissions can be attributed to facility closures and changes in production capacities at existing facilities, such as the closure of two methanol facilities in 2005 and 2006, and an increase in ethylene production in 2016.

Agriculture – 2020 greenhouse gas emissions (55 Mt)

The Agriculture sector covers non-energy GHG emissions related to the production of crops and livestock. Emissions from Agriculture accounted for 55 Mt, or 8.2% of total GHG emissions for Canada in 2020.

In 2020, Agriculture accounted for 30% of national CH4 emissions and 75% of national N2O emissions.

The main drivers of the emission trend in the Agriculture sector are the fluctuations in livestock populations and the application of inorganic nitrogen fertilizers to agricultural soils in the Prairie provinces. Since 2005, fertilizer use has increased by 89%, while major livestock populations peaked in 2005, then decreased sharply until 2011. In 2020, emissions from livestock digestion (enteric fermentation) accounted for 43% of total agricultural emissions, and the application of inorganic nitrogen fertilizers accounted for 21% of total agricultural emissions.

Waste – 2020 greenhouse gas emissions (27 Mt)

The Waste sector includes GHG emissions from the treatment and disposal of liquid and solid wastes. Emissions from Waste contributed 27 Mt (4.1%) to Canada’s total emissions in 2020 and 29 Mt (3.9%) in 2005.

The primary sources of emissions in 2020 for the Waste sector are disposal in landfills including municipal solid waste (MSW) (22 Mt) and industrial wood waste landfills (2.2 Mt). In 2020, these landfills combined accounted for 89% of Waste emissions, while Biological Treatment of Solid Waste (composting), Wastewater Treatment and Discharge, and Incineration and Open Burning of Waste together accounted for the remaining 11%.

In 2020, CH4 emissions from MSW landfills made up 81% of all waste emissions; these emissions decreased by 3.6% between 2005 and 2020. Of the 35 Mt CO2 eq of CH4 generated by MSW landfills in 2020, only 22 Mt CO2 eq (62%) were actually emitted to the atmosphere, with a large proportion (30% or 10 Mt CO2 eq) being captured by landfill gas collection facilities and flared or used for energy, as compared to 25% in 2005.

Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry – 2020 (net greenhouse gas removals of 6.8 Mt)

The LULUCF sector reports anthropogenic GHG fluxes between the atmosphere and Canada’s managed lands, including those associated with land-use change and emissions from Harvested Wood Products (HWP), which are closely linked to Forest Land.

In this sector, the net flux is calculated as the sum of CO2 and non-CO2 emissions to the atmosphere and CO2 removals from the atmosphere. In 2020, this net flux amounted to net removals of 6.8 Mt that, when included with emissions from other sectors, decreases Canada’s total GHG emissions by 1.0%.

Net removals from the LULUCF sector have varied over recent years fluctuating between removals of 0.1 Mt in 2015 to 49 Mt and 39 Mt in 2009 and 2014, respectively. Fluctuations are driven by the variability in crop yields and by variations in emissions from HWP and removals from Forest Land, which are closely tied to harvest rates.

Estimates from the Forest sector are split between emissions from HWP, emissions and removals resulting from significant natural disturbances on managed forests (wildfires and insects) and anthropogenic emissions and removals associated with forest management activities. The combined net flux from Forest Land and Harvested Wood Products—from forest harvest—fluctuated from a net source of 9.4 Mt in 2005 to a net sink of 22 Mt in 2009 (lowest harvest year), and was observed to be a net sink of 6.5 Mt in 2020. Approximately 33% of HWP emissions result from long-lived wood products reaching the end of their economic life decades after the wood was harvested. Emission and removal patterns in both HWP and Forest Land have therefore been influenced by recent forest management trends and by the long-term impact of forest management practices in past decades.

Cropland has contributed to net removals in the land sector over the reporting period, with the exception of drought years on the prairies in early 2000s that result in a peak in net emissions in 2003 (7.6 Mt). Interannual variability is high throughout the time series, reflecting weather-related impacts to crop production. Net removals have increased, on average, as a result of improved soil management practices including conservation tillage and an overall gradual increase in crop productivity resulting from increased fertilization and reduced use of summerfallow. Since 2005, the decline in net removals that results from a decrease in perennial land cover has largely offset removals resulting from increasing yields and there is subsequently no clear trend. Recent trends are impacted by peak yields and subsequently peak removals in 2009 (-36 Mt) and 2014 (-44 Mt).

The conversion of forestsFootnote 7  to other land uses is a prevalent practice in Canada and is mainly due to resource extraction and cropland expansion. Emissions resulting from forest conversion in the years 2005 to 2020 have fluctuated around 16 Mt.

ES.5 Canadian economic sectors

For the purposes of analyzing economic trends and policies, it is useful to allocate emissions to the economic sector from which they originate. In general, a comprehensive emission profile for a specific economic sector is developed by reallocating the relevant proportion of emissions from various IPCC subcategories. This reallocation simply re-categorizes emissions under different headings and does not change the overall magnitude of Canadian emissions estimates.

GHG emissions trends in Canada’s economic sectors are consistent with those described for IPCC sectors, with the Oil and Gas and Buildings economic sectors showing emission increases of 7.5 Mt or 4.4% and 4.1 Mt or 4.9%, respectively, since 2005 (Figure ES–7 and Table ES–3). These increases have been more than offset by emission decreases in Electricity (-61 Mt or -52%), Heavy Industry (-15 Mt or -18%), and Waste and others (-5.0 Mt or -9.0%). Since 2005, Transport emissions have generally increased; emissions in 2020 dropped and are comparable to 2005 levels (-0.93 Mt or -0.6% since 2005). Between the years 2019 and 2020, Oil and Gas emissions have decreased significantly (-25 Mt or -12%), coinciding with federal regulations to reduce methane emissions from the upstream oil and gas industry and equivalent provincial regulations in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

Further information on economic sector trends can be found in Chapter 2. Additional information on the IPCC and economic sector definitions, as well as a detailed crosswalk table between IPCC and economic sector categories, can be found in Part 3 of this report.

Figure ES–7: Breakdown of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector (2020)

Figure ES–7 (See long description below)

Total: 672 Mt CO2 eq

Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding.

Long description for Figure ES–7

Figure ES–7 is a pie chart displaying the breakdown of Canada’s GHG emissions in 2020 by the following seven economic sectors: Oil and Gas, Electricity, Transport, Heavy Industry, Buildings, Agriculture, and Waste and others. The total GHG emissions equals 672 Mt CO2 eq. The figure shows that less than one third of GHG emissions come from Oil and Gas Industry, 24% from Transport, and 13% from Buildings. Heavy Industry, Agriculture, Electricity, and Waste and other contribute to lesser shares. The following table displays the breakdown of GHG emissions (Mt CO2 eq) (%) for these sectors in 2020.

Breakdown of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector (2020)
Economic sector Mt CO2 eq % of total
Total 672 100%
Oil and Gas 179 27%
Electricity 56 8.4%
Transport 159 24%
Heavy Industry 72 11%
Buildings 88 13%
Agriculture 69 10%
Waste and Others 50 7.4%

Notes for Table ES–3:
Totals may not add up due to rounding.
Estimates presented here are under continuous improvement. Historical emissions may be changed in future publications as new data becomes available and methods and models are refined and improved.

Table ES–3: Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector, selected years (Mt CO2 eq)
Economic sector 2005 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
National GHG Total 741 733 715 725 740 738 672
Oil and Gas 171 205 194 196 205 203 179
Electricity 118 80 74 73 63 62 56
Transport 160 172 173 179 184 185 159
Heavy IndustryTable ES-3 Note a 87 78 76 76 77 77 72
Buildings 84 84 82 87 93 92 88
AgricultureTable ES-3 Note b 66 65 65 64 66 67 69
Waste and OthersTable ES-3 Note c 55 50 50 50 51 52 50

Notes:
a. Heavy Industry represents emissions arising from non-coal, -oil and -gas mining activities, smelting and refining, and the production and processing of industrial goods such as fertilizer, paper or cement.
b. Emissions assoicated with the production of fertilizer are reported in the Heavy Industry sector.
c. "Others" includes Coal Production, Light Manufacturing, Construction and Forest Resources.

ES.6 Provincial and territorial greenhouse gas emissions

Emissions vary significantly by province and territory as a result of such factors as population, energy sources and economic structure. All else being equal, economies based on resource extraction will tend to have higher emission levels than service-based economies. Likewise, provinces that rely on fossil fuels for electricity generation emit relatively higher amounts of GHGs than those that rely more on hydroelectricity.

Historically, Alberta and Ontario have been the highest-emitting provinces. Since 2005, emission patterns in these two provinces have diverged. Emissions in Alberta have increased by 19 Mt (8.2%) since 2005, primarily as a result of the expansion of oil and gas operations (Figure ES–8 and Table ES–4). In contrast, Ontario’s emissions have decreased by 55 Mt (27%) since 2005, owing primarily to the closure of the last coal-fired electricity generation plants in 2014.

Quebec’s emissions decreased by 10 Mt (12%) between 2005 and 2020 and those in Saskatchewan and British Columbia also decreased by 5.4 Mt (7.6%) and 1.8 Mt (2.9%), respectively, over the same time period. Emissions in Manitoba have increased since 2005, (1.1 Mt or 5.6%). Other provinces that have seen significant decreases in emissions include New Brunswick (7.3 Mt or a 37% reduction), Nova Scotia (8.4 Mt or a 36% reduction), Newfoundland and Labrador (1.0 Mt or a 9.1% reduction) and Prince Edward Island (0.29 Mt or a 15% reduction). Furthermore, emissions in the Northwest Territories have also decreased (0.32 Mt or 19%), and Yukon and Nunavut have seen increases in emissions (0.03 Mt or 5.6%, and 0.02 Mt or 3.2%, respectively).

Figure ES–8: Greenhouse gas emissions by province and territory in 2005, 2010 and 2020

Figure ES–8 (See long description below)
Long description for Figure ES–8

Figure ES–8 is a bar chart displaying the GHG emissions by province and territory for the following years: 2005, 2010 and 2020. The chart shows that most emissions come from Alberta and they increased from 2005 to 2020. Ontario comes in the second place for emissions, though they decreased from 2005 to 2020. Quebec occupies the third place, followed by Saskatchewan and British Columbia. In these three provinces, emissions decreased slightly from 2005 to 2020. The following table displays the GHG emissions (Mt CO2 eq) for 2005, 2010 and 2020.

Greenhouse gas emissions by province and territory in 2005, 2010 and 2020 (Mt CO2 eq)
Province and territory 2005 2010 2020
NL 10 10 10
PE 1.9 1.8 1.6
NS 23 20 15
NB 20 18 12
QC 86 79 76
ON 204 173 150
MB 21 19 22
SK 71 71 66
AB 237 255 256
BC 64 59 62
YT 0.57 0.65 0.60
NT 1.7 1.5 1.4
NU 0.58 0.60 0.60

Note for Table ES–4:
Totals may not add up due to rounding.

Table ES–4: Greenhouse gas emissions by province and territory, selected years (Mt CO2 eq)
Province and territory 2005 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 Change (%)
2005 to 2020
GHG Total (Canada) 741 733 715 725 740 738 672 -9.3%
NL 10 11 11 11 11 11 9.5 -9.1%
PE 1.9 1.6 1.6 1.6 1.6 1.7 1.6 -15%
NS 23 17 15 16 17 16 15 -36%
NB 20 14 15 14 14 13 12 -37%
QC 86 79 78 80 82 84 76 -12%
ON 204 164 162 159 167 166 150 -27%
MB 21 21 21 22 23 22 22 5.6%
SK 71 79 77 79 80 78 66 -7.6%
AB 237 284 268 276 277 279 256 8.2%
BC 64 60 62 63 66 65 62 -2.9%
YT 0.57 0.53 0.53 0.56 0.65 0.69 0.60 5.6%
NT 1.7 1.6 1.5 1.6 1.6 1.6 1.4 -19%
NU 0.58 0.65 0.74 0.75 0.74 0.73 0.60 3.2%

ES.7 National inventory arrangements

Environment and Climate Change Canada is the single national entity with responsibility for preparing and submitting the national GHG inventory to the UNFCCC and for managing the supporting processes and procedures.

The institutional arrangements for the preparation of the inventory include formal agreements on data collection and estimate development; a quality management plan, including an improvement plan; identifying key categories and generating quantitative uncertainty analysis; a process for performing recalculations due to improvements; procedures for official approval; and a working archive system to facilitate third-party review.

Submission of information regarding the national inventory arrangements, including details on institutional arrangements for inventory preparation, is also an annual requirement under the UNFCCC Reporting Guidelines (see Chapter 1, section 1.2).

Structure of submission

The UNFCCC requirements include the annual compilation and submission of both the NIR and the CRF tables. The CRF tables are a series of standardized data tables containing mainly numerical information that are submitted electronically. The NIR contains the information to support the CRF tables, including a comprehensive description of the methodologies used in compiling the inventory, the data sources, the institutional structures, and the quality assurance and quality control procedures.

Part 1 of the NIR includes Chapters 1 to 8. Chapter 1 (Introduction) provides an overview of Canada’s legal, institutional and procedural arrangements for producing the inventory (i.e., the national inventory arrangements), quality assurance and quality control procedures, and a description of Canada’s facility emission-reporting system. Chapter 2 provides an analysis of Canada’s GHG emission trends in accordance with the UNFCCC reporting structure and a breakdown of emission trends by Canadian economic sectors. Chapters 3 to 7 provide descriptions and additional analysis for each sector, according to UNFCCC reporting requirements. Chapter 8 presents a summary of recalculations and planned improvements.

Part 2 of the NIR consists of Annexes 1 to 7, which provide a key category analysis, an inventory uncertainty assessment, detailed explanations of estimation methodologies, Canada’s energy balance, completeness assessments, emission factors and information on ozone and aerosol precursors.

Part 3 comprises Annexes 8 to 13, which present rounding procedures, summary tables of GHG emissions at the national level and for each provincial and territorial jurisdiction, sector and gas, as well as additional details on the GHG intensity of electricity generation. Detailed GHG data are also available on the Government of Canada’s Open Data website.

Executive summary references

[Climate Watch] Climate Watch historical GHG emissions. 2021. Washington (DC): World Resources Institute.

[OPG] Ontario Power Generation Inc. 2015. Sustainable Development Report 2014. [accessed 2022 Jan 6].

[StatCan] Statistics Canada. No date (a). Table 36-10-0369-01 (formerly CANSIM 380-0106): Gross domestic product, expenditure-based, at 2012 constant prices, annual (x 1,000,000). [last updated 2021 Nov 30; accessed 2021 Dec 29].

[StatCan] Statistics Canada. No date (b). Table 17-10-0005-01 (formerly CANSIM 051-0001): Population estimates on July 1st, by age and sex. [last updated 2021 Sep 29; accessed 2021 Dec 29].

[StatCan] Statistics Canada. No date (c). Table 25-10-0025-01 (formerly CANSIM 128-0006): Manufacturing industries, total annual energy fuel consumption in gigajoules, 31-33. [accessed 2022 Jan 6].

[UNEP] UN Environment Programme. No date. The Montreal Protocol. [accessed 2021 Jan 8].

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