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 GHGs.

National

National greenhouse gas emissions

Key results

  • Canada's total GHG emissions in 2018 were 729 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq)

Greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2018

Greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2016 (see long description below)
Data table for the long description
Greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2018
Year Total greenhouse gas emissions
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
1990 603
1991 595
1992 612
1993 615
1994 636
1995 653
1996 675
1997 686
1998 693
1999 707
2000 731
2001 720
2002 724
2003 740
2004 742
2005 730
2006 721
2007 742
2008 723
2009 680
2010 691
2011 702
2012 710
2013 721
2014 721
2015 720
2016 706
2017 714
2018 729

Note: Data are presented as rounded figures.

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: Data are presented as rounded figures. 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.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2020) National Inventory Report 1990-2018: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

Between 1990 and 2018, emissions increased by 20.9%, or 126 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.

Emissions in 2018 were almost equal to 2005 emissions, with a difference of 0.4 Mt CO2 eq or 0.1%. Emissions from public electricity and heat production by utilities showed a large decrease in emissions, 55 Mt CO2 eq. or 44%, and was a contributor to the stabilisation.

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 2018, 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 2018 than in 1990 for Ontario and Quebec
    • For Quebec, emissions were lower by 4.1 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq)
    • For Ontario, emissions were lower by 14.4 Mt CO2 eq

Greenhouse gas emissions by province and territory, Canada, 1990, 2005 and 2018

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 2018
Province or territory 1990 greenhouse gas emissions
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
2005 greenhouse gas emissions
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
2018 greenhouse gas emissions
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) 9.8 10.5 11.0
Prince Edward Island (PE) 2.0 2.1 1.7
Nova Scotia (NS) 19.6 23.1 17.0
New Brunswick (NB) 16.2 20.0 13.2
Quebec (QC) 86.7 86.1 82.6
Ontario (ON) 179.3 203.2 165.0
Manitoba (MB) 18.3 20.1 21.8
Saskatchewan (SK) 44.5 68.1 76.4
Alberta (AB) 173.1 232.0 272.6
British Columbia (BC) 51.6 62.0 65.5
Yukon (YT) 0.5 0.5 0.6
Northwest Territories (NT) 1.6[A] 1.6 1.2
Nunavut (NU)[A] n/a 0.6 0.7

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 (2020) National Inventory Report 1990-2018: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

More information

In 2018, the combined emissions from Alberta and Ontario, the largest emitters, represented 60% (37% and 23%, 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 57% since 1990, primarily due to the increase in the oil and gas industry. Ontario's emissions decreased between 1990 and 2018 primarily because of the closure of coal-fired electricity generation plants.

Quebec had a 4% (3.5 Mt CO2 eq) decrease from its 2005 emissions level; mainly attributable to decreasing emissions from the residential, aluminium production and petroleum refining industries. In contrast to these decreases, emissions in Saskatchewan increased by 12% (8.4 Mt CO2 eq) between 2005 and 2018, primarily due to increases in activity from sectors such as transportation, public electricity and heat production, and mining. Over the same period, emissions from British Columbia had an increase of 6% (3.5 Mt CO2 eq); essentially due to increasing emissions from the transportation and the oil and gas extraction sectors.

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 efficiency improvements in the economy are minimizing GHG emissions while producing goods and services for our consumption and export.

Key results

  • Between 1990 and 2018, the amount of GHGs emitted per person decreased 10% from 21.8 to 19.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq) per person
  • Over the same period, GHG per unit of gross domestic product decreased 36% from 0.55 to 0.35 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 2018

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 2018
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 21.8 0.0 0.55 0.0
1991 21.2 -2.6 0.56 0.6
1992 21.6 -0.9 0.57 2.7
1993 21.4 -1.6 0.56 0.6
1994 21.9 0.7 0.55 -0.7
1995 22.3 2.3 0.55 -0.7
1996 22.8 4.6 0.56 1.0
1997 22.9 5.3 0.54 -1.8
1998 23.0 5.5 0.53 -4.5
1999 23.3 6.8 0.51 -7.6
2000 23.8 9.3 0.50 -9.5
2001 23.2 6.5 0.49 -12.2
2002 23.1 6.0 0.47 -14.2
2003 23.4 7.4 0.48 -13.8
2004 23.2 6.6 0.46 -16.2
2005 22.6 3.9 0.44 -20.1
2006 22.1 1.5 0.43 -23.0
2007 22.6 3.6 0.43 -22.4
2008 21.7 -0.2 0.41 -25.3
2009 20.2 -7.1 0.40 -27.3
2010 20.3 -6.8 0.40 -28.3
2011 20.5 -6.1 0.39 -29.3
2012 20.5 -6.1 0.39 -29.7
2013 20.5 -5.7 0.39 -30.3
2014 20.4 -6.6 0.37 -32.2
2015 20.2 -7.4 0.37 -32.7
2016 19.6 -10.2 0.36 -34.6
2017 19.5 -10.3 0.35 -36.2
2018 19.7 -9.7 0.35 -36.3

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 (2020) National Inventory Report 1990-2018: 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.

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 electricity 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 energy efficiency in the economy has improved while producing goods and services for our consumption and export.

Key results

  • In 2018, 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 13% of total GHG emissions in Canada

Greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector, Canada, 1990 to 2018

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 2018
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 106.1 120.8 74.1 94.7 97.0 57.5 53.0
1991 104.2 114.8 73.3 96.1 97.0 57.7 51.7
1992 114.1 115.8 74.8 102.5 94.4 60.0 50.8
1993 120.8 117.3 78.6 93.1 93.9 62.0 49.3
1994 125.6 121.9 79.1 95.1 99.5 64.8 50.4
1995 131.6 122.7 79.8 98.1 100.2 68.0 52.7
1996 139.1 126.4 85.8 98.2 103.0 69.5 52.6
1997 139.6 132.0 83.1 109.4 102.5 69.9 49.7
1998 145.1 137.8 75.5 122.2 97.4 69.6 45.5
1999 154.2 143.7 79.2 119.3 94.6 69.5 46.7
2000 157.2 145.6 85.7 129.6 94.1 70.1 48.3
2001 157.9 147.4 82.3 130.0 88.3 67.9 46.0
2002 161.2 148.4 87.1 123.8 89.4 67.5 46.6
2003 163.2 152.4 91.9 127.2 88.7 70.2 46.7
2004 161.9 156.8 90.3 120.3 92.5 71.8 48.0
2005 157.6 160.7 86.2 119.3 87.4 72.1 46.3
2006 161.6 161.9 81.0 113.6 87.3 70.2 44.9
2007 167.9 165.6 86.6 118.9 86.3 70.7 46.2
2008 160.7 165.6 86.4 110.1 85.2 70.6 44.1
2009 157.9 162.3 84.7 94.9 72.3 67.9 40.6
2010 159.0 168.2 81.7 96.5 75.5 67.8 41.9
2011 165.0 169.2 87.2 88.1 82.0 68.5 42.6
2012 176.1 171.1 85.4 84.2 81.3 70.0 42.0
2013 184.8 174.3 86.2 81.2 79.1 72.6 42.8
2014 191.4 171.7 88.9 77.2 80.3 70.9 40.9
2015 190.6 172.2 85.7 80.6 78.7 71.2 41.4
2016 186.5 173.5 81.7 74.9 76.6 71.8 41.1
2017 188.0 178.6 85.4 73.3 75.8 71.2 41.5
2018 193.2 185.9 92.5 64.3 78.3 73.1 42.2

Note: Data are presented as rounded figures.

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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 (2020) National Inventory Report 1990-2018: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

In 2018, the oil and gas sector accounted for 193 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) (26% of total emissions), followed closely by the transportation sector, which emitted 186 Mt CO2 eq (25%).

The increase in total GHG emissions between 1990 and 2018 was mostly due to a 82% (87 Mt CO2 eq) increase in emissions in the oil and gas sector and a 54% (65 Mt CO2 eq) increase in the transportation sector. These increases were partially offset by a 30 Mt CO2 eq decrease in emissions in the electricity sector and an 18 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 2018, the oil and gas sector was the largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for 26% of total national emissions
  • Emissions of GHGs from the oil and gas sector have increased 82% from 106 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) in 1990 to 193 Mt CO2 eq in 2018. 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 2018

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 2018
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 35.53 23.38 4.46 4.42 6.13 32.13
1991 34.20 22.58 4.87 4.45 6.40 31.73
1992 36.35 24.97 5.08 4.72 8.46 34.54
1993 39.06 26.15 5.13 5.01 9.58 35.88
1994 41.32 27.80 5.28 5.41 10.26 35.54
1995 43.39 30.05 4.94 5.75 10.36 37.09
1996 45.18 31.59 5.45 6.15 10.13 40.57
1997 42.79 33.48 5.23 7.36 9.98 40.72
1998 46.53 35.06 5.52 7.61 10.21 40.14
1999 53.52 34.78 6.79 7.60 12.04 39.50
2000 57.45 36.90 6.76 8.15 12.52 35.41
2001 58.74 35.61 7.87 8.22 13.13 34.31
2002 60.91 35.25 8.36 7.99 13.61 35.05
2003 63.53 32.55 9.01 8.78 15.05 34.26
2004 58.34 31.32 10.19 10.15 16.94 34.97
2005 54.97 29.86 9.47 11.23 16.65 35.46
2006 54.36 29.33 10.99 13.17 19.03 34.72
2007 58.00 30.66 11.70 13.83 19.92 33.81
2008 53.91 29.24 11.29 16.13 18.57 31.57
2009 50.52 26.59 12.06 17.49 20.67 30.55
2010 48.16 26.79 12.33 19.57 21.75 30.40
2011 51.09 28.44 11.80 21.34 23.27 29.09
2012 51.03 30.53 13.58 24.73 25.08 31.14
2013 51.50 32.13 15.33 27.28 25.86 32.71
2014 53.10 35.38 15.61 29.47 25.42 32.41
2015 49.96 33.76 17.07 32.86 24.43 32.52
2016 49.32 29.15 17.50 35.01 22.25 33.30
2017 48.70 29.07 18.39 38.49 22.70 30.63
2018 49.56 28.93 18.46 40.69 24.41 31.14

Note: Data are presented as rounded figures.

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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 (2020) National Inventory Report 1990-2018: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

Between 1990 and 2018, GHG emissions from conventional oil production have increased by 24%, while emissions from oil sands production have increased by 456%. 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 2018, 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 2018, the transportation sector was the second largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for 25% (185 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Footnote 1  of total national emissions
  • Between 1990 and 2018, GHG emissions from the transportation sector grew by 53%. The growth in emissions was mostly driven by increases from freight trucks and passenger light trucks

Transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2018

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 2018
Year Passenger - Cars
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Passenger - Light trucks
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Passenger - Motorcycles, bus, rail and domestic aviation
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Freight - Heavy duty trucks
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Freight - Rail, domestic aviation and marine
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Other
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
1990 42.46 21.58 6.96 19.39 11.95 18.49
1991 40.69 20.91 6.08 18.05 11.38 17.69
1992 40.95 21.26 6.16 18.02 11.61 17.82
1993 41.39 21.44 5.79 18.75 11.64 18.31
1994 41.81 23.55 5.96 19.99 12.02 18.53
1995 41.04 24.91 6.19 20.37 11.52 18.66
1996 40.67 26.32 6.68 23.19 11.47 18.02
1997 40.89 28.11 6.81 27.29 11.62 17.27
1998 41.34 30.10 7.22 31.35 11.43 16.39
1999 41.52 31.93 7.65 34.54 12.05 15.98
2000 41.57 32.93 7.72 36.62 12.21 14.52
2001 42.69 34.66 7.34 39.07 12.06 11.47
2002 43.22 35.98 7.13 39.13 11.69 11.19
2003 43.07 37.27 7.41 41.84 11.72 11.03
2004 42.56 38.36 7.89 44.25 12.01 11.65
2005 42.64 39.29 8.32 47.83 12.55 10.02
2006 41.64 39.71 8.43 49.30 12.85 9.86
2007 41.06 40.42 8.75 51.91 13.23 10.08
2008 39.84 40.11 8.59 53.46 13.50 9.94
2009 39.40 40.99 7.81 51.87 12.25 9.74
2010 39.15 42.49 7.84 56.04 12.30 10.10
2011 37.97 42.65 7.96 58.97 12.90 8.43
2012 36.90 43.23 8.80 60.91 13.00 8.00
2013 37.10 44.55 9.03 62.57 12.54 8.15
2014 35.58 44.79 8.64 61.39 12.46 8.46
2015 35.87 46.74 8.59 60.05 11.79 8.71
2016 35.94 49.66 8.51 59.13 11.26 8.58
2017 35.06 51.09 8.83 61.77 12.40 9.07
2018 35.22 54.04 9.41 64.66 12.69 9.47

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. Due a different allocation of emissions, greenhouse gas emissions from the freight transportation sector presented in the indicator slightly differ from the National Inventory Report. For more details, please consult the "Methods" section.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2020) National Inventory Report 1990-2018: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

Between 1990 and 2018, 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 emissions from passenger transportation grew by 39%, emissions from cars declined by 17%, while emissions from light trucks (including trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles) more than doubled. Emissions from freight travel grew by 147% between 1990 and 2018. Specifically emissions from freight trucks more than tripled and emissions from other modes of freight transportation increased by 6%.

Emissions from passenger and freight transportation 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 2  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 2018, the electricity sector was the sixth largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for 9% of total national emissions
  • Between 1990 and 2018, greenhouse gas emissions from combustion-based electricity generation have decreased by 32%

Electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2018

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 2018
Year Coal
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Natural gas
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Other
(megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
1990 80.49 2.72 11.51
1991 84.45 2.22 9.43
1992 87.45 4.42 10.65
1993 79.92 5.36 7.84
1994 83.60 5.26 6.29
1995 84.79 6.24 7.01
1996 86.75 5.50 5.94
1997 93.75 6.89 8.80
1998 100.02 9.28 12.86
1999 99.86 9.07 10.39
2000 108.94 11.11 9.59
2001 107.20 10.99 11.77
2002 105.45 8.70 9.65
2003 103.90 9.05 14.23
2004 96.48 9.72 14.09
2005 98.21 9.65 11.47
2006 94.14 10.51 9.00
2007 99.73 9.53 9.68
2008 93.65 9.20 7.21
2009 78.02 9.39 7.46
2010 79.03 12.56 4.89
2011 68.70 15.12 4.24
2012 63.33 16.62 4.22
2013 63.82 12.79 4.55
2014 60.32 11.79 5.11
2015 62.29 12.54 5.73
2016 57.12 12.47 5.32
2017 57.24 11.03 5.05
2018 44.13 15.19 4.93

Note: Data are presented as rounded figures.

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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 (2020) National Inventory Report 1990-2018: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

Greenhouse gas emissions from combustion-based electricity generation have decreased from 95 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) in 1990 to 64 Mt CO2 eq in 2018. 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 generation.

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 2018 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 track progress on the 2019 to 2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, supporting the target: By 2030, reduce Canada's total GHG emissions by 30%, relative to 2005 emission levels. The most recent data available shows that, in 2018, emissions were almost equal to 2005 emissions. Emissions from public electricity and heat production by utilities showed a large decrease in emissions and was a contributor to the stabilisation.

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 1990-2018: 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 2018. 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 the associated emission factor.

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.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector

The Greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector indicator was calculated using a classification adapted from the one presented in Annex 10 of the National Inventory Report.

For the passenger transportation, the "Cars, light trucks and motorcycles" category was split into individual categories for "Cars" and "Light trucks" and the "Motorcycles" data was combined with the existing "Bus, rail and domestic aviation" category.

For the freight transportation, the "Heavy duty trucks and rail" category was split into an individual category for "Heavy duty trucks" and "Rail" data was added to the existing "Domestic aviation and marine" category.

No change was made to the "Other: recreational, commercial and residential" category.

Due to the reallocation of the emissions, the indicator's GHG emissions from the freight transportation sector slightly differ from the National Inventory Report. In the National Inventory Report, the emissions resulting from the "Production and consumption of halocarbons" can partially be allocated to a specific type of freight transportation (heavy trucks, rail, domestic marine, domestic aviation). The remaining part of these emissions are attributed to the "Heavy trucks and rail" and "Domestic marine and aviation" categories. In this indicator, the freight transportation emissions that couldn't be allocated to a specific type of transport have not been taken into account.

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 2019 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 January 24, 2020.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (2020) Greenhouse gas sources and sinks: executive summary 2020. Retrieved on April 15, 2020.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (2020) National Inventory Report 1990-2018: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada. Retrieved on April 15, 2020.

Related information

Greenhouse gas emissions: drivers and impacts

Canada’s action on climate change

Climate change

Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories

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