Greenhouse gas emissions

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Climate change is one of the most important environmental issues of our time. Climate change is caused by the increase in concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. These increases are primarily due to human activities such as the use of fossil fuels or agriculture. The indicators report estimates of Canada's emissions and removals of greenhouse gases.

National

National greenhouse gas emissions

Key results

  • Canada's total GHG emissions in 2017 were 716 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq)
  • The decrease in emissions since 2005 was primarily driven by reduced emissions from the electricity generation sector

Greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2017

Greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2016 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2017
Year Total greenhouse gas emissions
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)

1990

602

1991

593

1992

610

1993

612

1994

634

1995

651

1996

672

1997

687

1998

695

1999

707

2000

731

2001

720

2002

724

2003

741

2004

743

2005

730

2006

721

2007

744

2008

723

2009

682

2010

693

2011

703

2012

711

2013

722

2014

723

2015

722

2016

708

2017

716

Note: Data are presented as rounded figures. However, all calculations have been performed using unrounded data.

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: The national indicator tracks 7 greenhouse gases released by human activity: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride, perfluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons and nitrogen trifluoride. Emission levels for some years have been revised in light of improvements to estimation methods and availability of new data. Emissions and removals from the land use, land use change and forestry sector (LULUCF) are excluded from national totals. For information on Canada's projected GHG emissions up to 2030, please consult the Progress towards Canada's greenhouse gas emissions reduction target indicator.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2019) National Inventory Report 1990-2017: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

More information

Between 1990 and 2017, emissions increased by 18.9%, or 114 Mt CO2 eq. Canada's emissions growth over this period was driven primarily by increased emissions from mining and upstream oil and gas production as well as transport.

Since 2005, emissions decreased by 15 Mt CO2 eq or 2.0%. The decrease was driven primarily by reduced emissions from public electricity and heat production utilities.

Regional

Greenhouse gas emissions by province and territory

Emissions vary significantly by province. The level of emissions depends on factors such as population, energy sources and economic base. Provinces and territories that are the most populated, have economies based on resource extraction or are relying on fossil fuels to generate electricity will tend to have higher emission levels.

Key results

  • In 2017, the top 5 emitters (Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia) together released 91% of Canada's national total GHG emissions
  • Of the top 5 emitters, greenhouse gas emissions were lower in 2017 than in 1990 for Ontario and Quebec
    • For Quebec, emissions were lower by 8.0 megatonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq)
    • For Ontario, emissions were lower by 21.3 Mt CO2 eq

Greenhouse gas emissions by province and territory, Canada, 1990, 2005 and 2017

Greenhouse gas emissions by province and territory, Canada, 1990, 2005 and 2016 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Greenhouse gas emissions by province and territory, Canada, 1990, 2005 and 2017
Province or territory 1990 greenhouse gas emissions
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
2005 greenhouse gas emissions
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
2017 greenhouse gas emissions
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) 9.4 9.9 10.5
Prince Edward Island (PE) 1.9 2.0 1.8
Nova Scotia (NS) 19.6 23.2 15.6
New Brunswick (NB) 16.1 20.0 14.3
Quebec (QC) 86.1 86.5 78.0
Ontario (ON) 180.0 203.9 158.7
Manitoba (MB) 18.3 20.1 21.7
Saskatchewan (SK) 44.4 68.0 77.9
Alberta (AB) 172.6 231.1 272.8
British Columbia (BC) 51.6 63.1 62.1
Yukon (YT) 0.5 0.5 0.5
Northwest Territories (NT) 1.6 [A] 1.6 1.3
Nunavut (NU) n/a 0.4 0.6

Note: [A] 1990 emissions data for the Northwest Territories include emissions for Nunavut, which was part of the Northwest Territories until 1999. n/a = not applicable.

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: Emission levels for some years have been revised in light of improvements to estimation methods and availability of new data.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2019) National Inventory Report 1990-2017: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

More information

In 2017, the combined emissions from Alberta and Ontario, the largest emitters, represented 60% (38% and 22%, respectively) of the national total.

In 1990, Ontario's GHG emissions were higher than those from the other provinces because of its large manufacturing industry. Alberta's emissions subsequently surpassed Ontario's, with an increase of 58% since 1990, primarily due to the increase in the oil and gas industry. Ontario's emissions decreased between 1990 and 2017 primarily because of the closure of coal-fired electricity generation plants. 

The provinces of Quebec and British Columbia, which rely on abundant hydroelectric resources for their electricity production, show more stable emission patterns over time and a decreasing pattern since 2005. Quebec had a 10% (8.4 Mt CO2 eq) decrease from its 2005 emissions level; mainly attributable to decreasing emissions from the residential, aluminium production and petroleum refining industries. Over the same period, emissions from British Columbia had a decline of 2% (1.0 Mt CO2 eq); essentially due to decreasing emissions from the manufacturing industries and fugitive sources. In contrast to these decreases, emissions in Saskatchewan increased by 14% (9.8 Mt CO2 eq) between 2005 and 2017, primarily due to increases in activity from sectors such as transportation, oil and gas, and mining.

Intensity

Greenhouse gas emissions per person and per unit of gross domestic product

These indicators show the relationship between the size of Canada's population and the amount of GHGs emitted. They also show how efficiently sectors in the economy are minimizing GHG emissions while producing goods and services for our consumption and export.

Key results

  • Between 1990 and 2017, the amount of GHGs emitted per person decreased 10% from 21.7 to 19.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq)
  • Over the same period, GHG per unit of gross domestic product decreased 36% from 0.55 to 0.36 megatonnes CO2 eq per billion dollars gross domestic product

Indexed trend in greenhouse gas emissions per person and per unit of gross domestic product, Canada, 1990 to 2017

Indexed trend in greenhouse gas emissions per person and per unit of gross domestic product, Canada, 1990 to 2016 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Indexed trend in greenhouse gas emissions per person and per unit of gross domestic product, Canada, 1990 to 2017
Year Greenhouse gas emissions per capita
(tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per person)
Indexed greenhouse gas emissions per capita
(percentage change from 1990 level)
Greenhouse gas emissions per unit of gross domestic product
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per billion dollars gross domestic product)
Indexed greenhouse gas emissions per unit of gross domestic product
(percentage change from 1990 level)
1990 21.7 0.0 0.55 0.0
1991 21.2 -2.7 0.56 0.6
1992 21.5 -1.1 0.57 2.6
1993 21.3 -1.8 0.55 0.4
1994 21.9 0.5 0.55 -0.9
1995 22.2 2.2 0.55 -0.8
1996 22.7 4.4 0.56 0.8
1997 23.0 5.6 0.54 -1.4
1998 23.0 5.9 0.53 -4.0
1999 23.3 7.0 0.51 -7.4
2000 23.8 9.5 0.50 -9.3
2001 23.2 6.7 0.49 -11.9
2002 23.1 6.2 0.48 -13.9
2003 23.4 7.7 0.48 -13.5
2004 23.3 7.0 0.46 -15.8
2005 22.7 4.2 0.44 -19.8
2006 22.2 1.9 0.43 -22.7
2007 22.6 4.0 0.43 -22.0
2008 21.8 0.0 0.41 -24.9
2009 20.3 -6.8 0.40 -26.9
2010 20.4 -6.3 0.40 -27.9
2011 20.5 -5.8 0.39 -29.0
2012 20.5 -5.9 0.39 -29.3
2013 20.5 -5.5 0.39 -29.9
2014 20.3 -6.4 0.38 -31.8
2015 20.1 -7.3 0.37 -32.3
2016 19.5 -10.3 0.36 -34.2
2017 19.5 -10.3 0.36 -35.7

Note: Data are presented as rounded figures. However, all calculations have been performed using unrounded data.

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: The chart presents the ratio of annual greenhouse gas emissions per person and per unit of gross domestic product relative to those values in 1990 (that is the values are indexed to 1990). Greenhouse gas per unit of gross domestic product is calculated using real inflation-adjusted gross domestic product in 2012 dollars. Emission levels for some years have been revised in light of improvements to estimation methods and availability of new data.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2019) National Inventory Report 1990-2017: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada. Statistics Canada Table 17-10-0005-01 - Estimates of population, by age group and sex for July 1, Canada, provinces and territories, annual. Statistics Canada Table 36-10-0369-01 - Gross domestic product at 2012 constant prices, expenditure-based, annual.

More information

Decreases in emissions per person and per unit of gross domestic product are attributable to a number of factors. More efficient industrial processes, a shift to a more service-based economy and a decrease in the emissions associated with energy generation are all contributing to these decreases.

Economic sectors

Greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector

These indicators show the GHG emissions reported by economic sector in which they are generated. They show how efficiently sectors in the economy are minimizing GHG emissions while producing goods and services for our consumption and export.

Key results

  • In 2017, the oil and gas sector and transportation sector were the largest GHG emitters in Canada. Together, they accounted for 52% of total emissions.
  • The other Canadian economic sectors each accounted for between 6% and 12% of total GHG emissions in Canada

Greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector, Canada, 1990 to 2017

Greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector, Canada, 1990 to 2016 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector, Canada, 1990 to 2017
Year Oil and gas
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Transportation
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Buildings
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Electricity
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Heavy industry
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Agriculture
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Waste and others
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
1990 106 122 74 94 97 57 52
1991 104 116 73 96 97 58 50
1992 113 117 75 102 94 60 49
1993 121 118 79 93 93 62 47
1994 125 122 79 95 99 65 49
1995 132 123 80 98 100 68 51
1996 139 127 86 98 102 69 51
1997 140 132 83 109 102 70 51
1998 145 139 76 122 96 70 47
1999 154 144 79 119 94 69 47
2000 157 146 86 129 93 70 49
2001 158 148 82 130 87 68 47
2002 161 149 87 123 89 67 47
2003 163 154 92 127 88 70 47
2004 162 159 90 120 92 72 49
2005 158 162 86 119 87 72 47
2006 161 163 81 114 86 70 46
2007 168 167 87 119 86 71 47
2008 160 167 86 110 84 70 45
2009 158 164 85 95 72 68 41
2010 159 170 82 97 74 68 43
2011 165 170 87 88 81 68 44
2012 176 172 86 84 80 70 42
2013 186 175 86 81 78 72 43
2014 193 173 88 78 78 71 42
2015 192 174 86 81 77 71 42
2016 187 174 82 76 76 72 41
2017 195 174 85 74 73 72 42

Note: Data are presented as rounded figures. However, all calculations have been performed using unrounded data.

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: The Waste and others sector consists of emissions from light manufacturing, construction, forest resources, waste and coal production. The Heavy industry sector consists of emissions from mining, smelting and refining, pulp and paper, iron and steel, cement, lime and gypsum, and chemicals and fertilizers.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2019) National Inventory Report 1990-2017: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

In 2017, the oil and gas sector accounted for 195 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) (27% of total emissions), followed closely by the transportation sector, which emitted 174 Mt CO2 eq (24%).

The increase in total GHG emissions between 1990 and 2017 was mostly due to a 84% (89 Mt CO2 eq) increase in emissions in the oil and gas sector and a 43% (53 Mt CO2 eq) increase in the transportation sector. These increases were partially offset by a 20 Mt CO2 eq decrease in emissions in the electricity sector and a 24 Mt CO2 eq decrease in emissions from heavy industry.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector

Greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector

Key results

  • In 2017, the oil and gas sector was the largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for 27% of total national emissions
  • Emissions of GHGs from the oil and gas sector have increased 84% from 106 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) in 1990 to 195 Mt CO2 eq in 2017. This increase is mostly attributable to the increased production of crude oil and the expansion of the oil sands industry.

Oil and gas sector greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2017

Oil and gas sector greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2016 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Oil and gas sector greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2017
Year Natural gas
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Conventional oil
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Oil sands, mining and extraction
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Oil sands, in situ
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Oil sands, upgrading
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Other
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
1990 35.3 23.1 4.5 4.8 6.2 32.1
1991 34.2 21.7 4.9 4.8 6.5 31.7
1992 36.4 23.8 5.1 5.1 8.6 34.5
1993 38.8 25.7 5.1 5.3 9.7 35.9
1994 41.1 27.2 5.3 5.7 10.4 35.5
1995 43.1 29.8 4.9 6.1 10.5 37.1
1996 45.1 31.2 5.4 6.5 10.3 40.6
1997 42.6 33.4 5.2 7.7 10.1 40.7
1998 46.3 34.7 5.5 7.9 10.4 40.1
1999 55.2 34.9 5.8 7.8 10.9 39.5
2000 59.2 36.9 5.8 8.4 11.4 35.4
2001 60.1 35.6 7.0 8.5 12.4 34.3
2002 62.4 35.2 7.4 8.0 13.0 35.0
2003 64.0 32.5 8.7 9.1 14.6 34.3
2004 59.4 31.4 9.5 10.4 16.2 35.0
2005 56.7 29.8 8.7 11.3 15.5 35.5
2006 56.3 29.0 10.3 13.3 17.7 34.7
2007 60.2 30.4 11.2 13.5 18.6 33.8
2008 54.3 28.6 11.2 16.6 17.9 31.6
2009 51.6 26.3 11.7 17.7 19.8 30.6
2010 48.6 26.3 12.5 20.1 21.3 30.4
2011 52.8 28.3 11.8 21.5 21.7 29.1
2012 54.3 30.7 12.1 25.0 23.2 31.1
2013 55.8 32.7 13.0 27.5 24.2 32.7
2014 55.2 37.7 13.9 30.0 23.9 32.4
2015 52.4 36.2 14.5 33.4 22.9 32.5
2016 51.2 30.4 14.5 37.4 20.6 33.3
2017 49.5 31.3 16.4 41.7 22.4 33.2

Note: Data are presented as rounded figures. However, all calculations have been performed using unrounded data.

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: Conventional oil includes production from frontier, light and heavy oil fields. The Other category includes downstream oil and gas emissions (combustion and fugitive emissions from the production of refined petroleum products and the distribution of natural gas to end consumers) and oil and gas transmission emissions (combustion and fugitive emissions from transmission, storage and delivery activities).
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2019) National Inventory Report 1990-2017: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

More information

Between 1990 and 2017, GHG emissions from conventional oil production have increased by 36%, while emissions from oil sands production have increased by 423%. More than half of the increase in emissions from oil sands production over this period came from the growth of in situ production. A temporary decrease in GHG emissions from the oil and gas sector was observed between 2007 and 2009 and is mostly attributable to the world economic downturn that resulted in a lower global demand for petroleum products.

Between 1990 and 2017, crude oil production more than doubled in Canada. This was mostly driven by a rapid increase in production from the oil sands, which are more GHG-intensive than conventional sources (that is, more GHGs are emitted per unit cubic meters of oil produced). This change thus had a major impact on total GHG emissions from the sector.

During the same period, production of natural gas from unconventional sources, such as those requiring the use of multi-stage fracturing techniques, also increased significantly.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector

Greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector

Key Results

  • In 2017, the transportation sector was the second largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for 24% (174 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) of total national emissions
  • Between 1990 and 2017, GHG emissions from the transportation sector grew by 43%. The growth in emissions was mostly driven by increases from freight trucks and passenger light trucks

Transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2017

Transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2016 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2017
Year Passenger cars
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Passenger light trucks
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Passenger aviation, bus, rail and motorcycle
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Freight trucks
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Freight aviation, rail and marine
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Other
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
1990 42.5 21.6 7.0 19.4 13.0 18.5
1991 40.7 20.9 6.1 18.0 12.6 17.7
1992 40.9 21.2 6.2 18.0 12.6 17.8
1993 41.4 21.4 5.8 18.7 12.0 18.3
1994 41.8 23.5 6.0 20.0 12.5 18.5
1995 41.0 24.9 6.2 20.4 11.7 18.7
1996 40.7 26.3 6.7 23.2 11.7 18.0
1997 40.9 28.1 6.8 27.3 11.8 17.3
1998 41.3 30.1 7.2 31.3 12.3 16.4
1999 41.5 31.9 7.6 34.5 12.5 16.0
2000 41.6 32.9 7.7 36.6 12.8 14.5
2001 42.7 34.6 7.3 39.1 13.0 11.5
2002 43.2 36.0 7.1 39.1 12.6 11.2
2003 43.1 37.3 7.4 41.8 13.4 11.0
2004 42.5 38.3 7.9 44.2 14.0 11.6
2005 42.6 39.3 8.3 47.8 14.2 10.0
2006 41.6 39.7 8.4 49.3 13.9 9.9
2007 41.1 40.4 8.7 51.9 14.9 10.1
2008 39.8 40.1 8.6 53.5 14.9 9.9
2009 39.4 41.0 7.8 51.9 13.9 9.7
2010 39.2 42.5 7.8 56.1 14.2 10.1
2011 38.0 42.7 8.0 59.0 13.8 8.4
2012 36.9 43.2 8.8 60.9 14.1 8.0
2013 37.2 44.6 9.0 62.7 13.5 8.1
2014 35.7 44.9 8.6 61.6 13.2 8.5
2015 36.1 47.0 8.6 60.4 12.7 8.7
2016 36.3 50.1 8.6 59.7 11.0 8.6
2017 34.6 50.5 8.6 59.9 11.9 8.9

Note: Data are presented as rounded figures. However, all calculations have been performed using unrounded data.

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: The Other category includes other recreational, commercial and residential uses.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2019) National Inventory Report 1990-2017: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

More information

Between 1990 and 2017, part of the GHG emissions increase was due to a higher number of vehicles on the road and to changes in vehicle type used. Although total passenger emissions grew by 32%, emissions from cars declined by 18%, while emissions from light trucks (including trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles) more than doubled. Freight travel emissions grew by 122% between 1990 and 2017. Specifically emissions from freight trucks tripled and emissions from other modes of freight transportation decreased by 9%.

Passenger and freight travel emissions are influenced by a variety of factors, including population and economic growth, vehicle type, fuel efficiency and fuel type. Changes in the mix of vehicle type used, such as the increasing preference of passenger vehicle owners for light trucks rather than more fuel-efficient passenger cars, played an important role in shaping the evolution of GHG emissions.

Since 1990, the number of light trucks increased much faster than the increase of other passenger on-road vehicles. At the same time, there have been continual improvements in the fuel efficiency of both passenger cars and light trucks over the last few decades.Footnote 1  However, these improvements were not sufficient to offset the increases in emissions due to the change in composition of the vehicle fleet.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector

Greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector

Key Results

  • In 2017, the electricity sector was the fourth largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for 10% of total national emissions
  • Between 1990 and 2017, greenhouse gas emissions from combustion-based electricity generation have decreased by 21%

Electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2017

Electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2016 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2017
Year Coal
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Natural gas
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Other
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
1990 80.2 2.7 11.5
1991 84.2 2.2 9.4
1992 87.2 4.4 10.7
1993 79.7 5.4 7.9
1994 83.3 5.3 6.3
1995 84.5 6.2 7.0
1996 86.5 5.5 6.0
1997 93.5 6.9 8.8
1998 99.8 9.3 12.9
1999 99.6 9.1 10.4
2000 108.5 11.1 9.6
2001 106.8 11.0 11.8
2002 105.1 8.7 9.7
2003 103.6 9.2 14.2
2004 96.2 9.9 14.1
2005 97.9 9.9 11.5
2006 93.8 10.7 9.0
2007 99.4 9.7 9.7
2008 93.3 9.6 7.2
2009 77.7 9.7 7.5
2010 78.7 12.9 4.9
2011 68.4 15.4 4.2
2012 63.1 16.9 4.2
2013 63.6 13.1 4.6
2014 60.7 12.5 5.1
2015 62.3 12.9 5.6
2016 57.6 12.4 5.6
2017 57.4 11.8 5.1

Note: Data are presented as rounded figures. However, all calculations have been performed using unrounded data.

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: The Other category includes diesel fuel oil, heavy fuel oil, light fuel oil, motor gasoline, petroleum coke, own use of primary electricity, solid wood waste and still gas.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2019) National Inventory Report 1990-2017: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

More information

Greenhouse gas emissions from combustion-based electricity generation have decreased from 94 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) in 1990 to 74 Mt CO2 eq in 2017. The growing share of electricity generated from non-GHG-emitting sources (such as hydro, nuclear and other renewables) and from fuels less GHG-intensive than coal contributed to the decline in GHG emissions from electricity.

Electricity generation technologies have various levels of GHG emission intensity (which is defined as the quantity of GHGs emitted per unit of electricity produced). Hydroelectricity and nuclear power emit no GHGs when generating electricity, while coal-burning power plants have a higher GHG intensity than natural gas-burning power plants. The general decline in the GHG intensity of electricity generation of public electric utilities from 1990 to 2017 can be attributed partly to a reduction in the use of coal and increases in other power plant types.

About the indicators

About the indicators

What the indicators measure

The indicators show trends in anthropogenic (human-made) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It includes emissions for 7 greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride, perfluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons and nitrogen trifluoride). Emissions are presented:

  • at the national level (total emissions, emissions per person and emissions per unit of gross domestic product)
  • by economic sector
  • at the provincial/territorial level

The indicators do not capture:

  • emissions from natural processes (for example, material decay, plant and animal respiration, volcanic and thermal venting)
  • removal of emissions from the atmosphere by natural sinks (for example, forests, oceans)

Why these indicators are important

Greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere, just as the glass of a greenhouse keeps warm air inside. Human activity increases the amount of GHGs in the atmosphere, contributing to a warming of the Earth's surface. This is called the enhanced greenhouse effect.

Over the past 200 years in particular, humans have released GHGs into the atmosphere primarily from burning fossil fuels. As a result, more heat is being trapped and the temperature of the planet is increasing. Sea levels are rising as Arctic ice melts, and there are changes to the climate, such as more severe storms and heat waves. All of this impacts the environment, the economy and human health.

The Greenhouse gas emissions indicators are used to track the progress of Canada's efforts to lower emissions and reach environmental performance objectives. They also support decision making on sustainable development.

As an Annex I Party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Canada is required to prepare and submit a national inventory of anthropogenic sources and sinks of GHGs on an annual basis.

FSDS Icon - Effective action on climate change

Effective action on climate change

These indicators support the measurement of progress towards the following 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy long-term goal: A low-carbon economy contributes to limiting global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and supports efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. They are used to assess progress towards the target: By 2030, reduce Canada's GHG emission by 30%, relative to 2005 emission levels.

In addition, the indicators contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They are linked to the 2030 Agenda's Goal 9: "Industriy, Innovation and Infrastructure" and Goal 13: "Climate Action"; more specifically to Target 9.4: "By 2030, upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes, with all countries taking action in accordance with their respective capabilities" and Target 13.2: "Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning."

Related indicators

The Greenhouse gas emissions from large facilities indicator reports GHG emissions from the largest GHG emitters in Canada (industrial and other types of facilities).

The Global greenhouse gas emissions indicator provides a global perspective on Canada's share of global GHG emissions.

The Carbon dioxide emissions from a consumption perspective indicator shows the impact of Canada's consumption of goods and services, regardless of where they are produced, on the levels of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

The Progress towards Canada's greenhouse gas emissions reduction target indicator provides an overview of Canada's projected GHG emissions up to 2030. 

Data sources and methods

Data sources and methods

Data sources

The Greenhouse gas emissions indicators are based on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data taken from Environment and Climate Change Canada's National Inventory Report 1990-2017: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

More information

Data used to develop the emission and removal estimates presented in the National Inventory Report are drawn from published and unpublished sources from various government departments, industry sources and scientific papers.

Greenhouse gas emission estimates are provided at the national level, by economic sectors and at provincial/territorial level. The greenhouse gas emission estimates are compiled annually and reported for the period from 1990 to 2017. Complete details of the temporal coverage for each data source used for the indicators can be found in chapters 3 through 7 of the National Inventory Report.

Preparation of the GHG emissions inventory takes almost 16 months from the end of the reporting year because of the time needed to collect, validate, calculate and interpret the data. Between November and January, emission estimates are prepared by Environment and Climate Change Canada's Pollutant Inventories and Reporting Division with input from numerous experts and scientists across Canada. From January through March, the National Inventory Report text and accompanying emissions data tables are developed. This material is reviewed by external experts and Environment and Climate Change Canada officials, and finally submitted electronically to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, typically by mid-April.

Methods

The National Inventory Report is prepared using a "top-down" approach, providing estimates at a sectoral and provincial/territorial level without attribution to individual emitters. The emissions estimates are developed using guidelines produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Annex 3 of the National Inventory Report describes the methods used to estimate Canada's GHG emissions. 

More information

Since direct measurement of emissions from all sources is not possible, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change requires that countries develop, update, publish and maintain national inventories using internationally approved and comparable emissions and removals estimation methods for 7 GHGs (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride, perfluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons and nitrogen trifluoride). Canada's inventory is developed in accordance with the recently revised United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Annex I Inventory Reporting Guidelines (PDF; 1.67 MB) which require the use of the 2006 methodological guidance developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change guidelines are based on the best available science and developed through an international process that involves testing of methods through ongoing inventory development, country studies, technical and regional workshops, and national and international experts consultations.

Emissions calculation

In general, GHG emissions are estimated by multiplying activity data by emission factors.

 

Emissions = activity data × emission factor

 

Activity data refer to the quantitative amount of human activity resulting in emissions during a given time period. The annual activity data for fuel combustion sources, for example, are the total amounts of fuel burned over a year.

Emission factors are based on samples of measurement data, and are representative rates of emissions for a given activity level under a given set of operating conditions. It is the estimated average emission rate of a given pollutant for a given source, relative to units of activity.

Guidelines produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for countries reporting to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change provide various methods for calculating GHG emissions from a given human activity. The methods for estimating emissions are divided into "tiers," each encompassing different levels of activity and technological detail. The same general structure is used for all tiers, while the level of detail at which the calculations are carried out can vary. Annex 3 of the National Inventory Report describes the methods used to estimate Canada's GHG emissions and illustrates that the selection of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change method type is highly dependent on the importance of each category and the availability of data.

Carbon dioxide equivalents

Greenhouse gas emissions are reported in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2 eq), determined by multiplying the amount of emissions of a particular greenhouse gas by the global warming potential of that gas. Greenhouse gases differ in their ability to absorb heat in the atmosphere due to their differing chemical properties and atmospheric lifetimes. For example, over a period of 100 years, methane's potential to trap heat in the atmosphere is 25 times greater than carbon dioxide's potential. Therefore, methane is considered to have a global warming potential of 25. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change publishes the global warming potentials and atmospheric lifetimes for each GHG; these can be found in Table 1-1 of the National Inventory Report.

Greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector

The Greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector indicator represents a different classification than the activity sector emissions prescribed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's methodological guidance and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's reporting guidelines. Instead of reporting on Canada's emissions by activity, GHG emissions have been allocated to the economic sector in which they are generated (for example, transportation emissions directly supporting an industrial activity, like off-road trucks in mining activities, have been allocated to the economic sector in which they are generated rather than to the transportation "activity" sector). A comprehensive detailing of the emissions reported by economic sector can be found in chapter 2 and Annex 10 of the National Inventory Report.

Quality assurance, quality control and uncertainty

Quality assurance and quality control procedures are an essential requirement of the GHG inventory development and submission process. Quality assurance and quality control procedures ensure and improve transparency, consistency, comparability, completeness and confidence in the national emissions for the purpose of meeting Canada's reporting commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Chapter 1 (section 1.3) of the National Inventory Report provides a complete description of the quality assurance and quality control procedures.

Uncertainty analysis helps to prioritize improvements and to guide decisions on methodological choices. Annex 2 of the National Inventory Report presents the uncertainty assessment for Canada's GHG emissions. Further details on uncertainty related to specific sectors can be found in the uncertainty sections of chapters 3 through 7 of the National Inventory Report.

Recent changes

Recalculations are performed annually on Canada's previously reported greenhouse gas emissions estimates to reflect updates to source data and estimation methodology. Chapter 8 of the National Inventory Report provides a summary of the recalculations that occurred due to methodological changes and/or refinements since the previous submission. The summary includes:

  • brief description, justification and summary of individual impacts on previously reported emission estimates
  • details on specific inventory improvements implemented in 2018 as well as planned improvements

Caveats and limitations

The Greenhouse gas emissions indicators are comprehensive but some emission sources have not been included in the indicators because they are not reported in the National Inventory Report. Owing to their relatively small contributions to the total emissions, these excluded sources do not significantly affect the overall completeness of the inventory. A detailed explanation of the excluded emission sources can be found in Annex 5 of the National Inventory Report.

Although reported in the National Inventory Report, emissions and removals from the land use, land use change and forestry sector are excluded from national totals and subsequently not reported as part of the Greenhouse gas emissions indicators.

Resources

Resources

References

Environment and Climate Change Canada (2018) Canada's greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions projections. Retrieved on February 4, 2019.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (2019) Greenhouse gas sources and sinks: executive summary 2019. Retrieved on April 15, 2019.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (2019) National Inventory Report 1990-2017: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada. Retrieved on April 15, 2019.

Statistics Canada (2019) Table 25-10-0014-01 Crude oil and equivalent, monthly supply and disposition (x 1,000). Retrieved on February 4, 2019.

Statistics Canada (2019) Table 25-10-0063-01 Supply and disposition of crude oil and equivalent. Retrieved on February 4, 2019.

Related information

Environment and Climate Change Canada (2019) Greenhouse gas emissions: drivers and impacts. Retrieved on January 18, 2019.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (2019) Canada’s action on climate change. Retrieved on January 18, 2019.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (2019) Climate change. Retrieved on January 18, 2019.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2006) Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. Retrieved on January 18, 2019.

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