Black Carbon Emissions Inventory

What is black carbon?

Black carbon is a short-lived, small aerosol (or airborne) particle linked to both climate warming and adverse health effects. It is emitted from incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuels (i.e., fossil fuels, biofuels, wood) in the form of very fine particulate matter. Black carbon is not emitted on its own, but as a component of particulate matter less than or equal to 2.5 micrometres in diameter (PM2.5). When black carbon particles settle on snow and ice, they darken the surface and enhance absorption of solar radiation, thus increasing the rate of melting.

In addition to being linked to climate warming, black carbon emissions are also a public health concern. As a component of PM2.5, black carbon particles are small enough to be inhaled and absorbed into the lungs and bloodstream. Black carbon has been linked to a variety of negative health effects, particularly on the respiratory and circulatory systems.

Reductions in black carbon emissions can have near-immediate benefits for both warming and health effects. Black carbon has an atmospheric lifetime in the range of several days to one week. Therefore, reductions in emissions can translate into improvements in air quality and reduced warming within a short time span as compared to other pollutants.

The black carbon emissions inventory

As a member of the Arctic Council, Canada has committed to producing an annual inventory of black carbon emissions. This report will serve to inform Canadians about black carbon emissions and provide valuable information for the development of air quality management strategies.

The data used to compile the report are taken from sections of the Air Pollutant Emission Inventory Report 1990-2016 specifically fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions from combustion-related sources, such as residential wood burning. One exception are the on-road vehicle emissions where black carbon estimates are modelled directly.

2016 black carbon report results

In 2016, approximately 35 thousand tonnes (35 kt) of black carbon were emitted in Canada, resulting in an overall decreasing trend of 7.8 kt (18%) since 2013 (Figure 1). The largest sources of human made black carbon emissions in Canada are diesel vehicles and home firewood burning, accounting for 13.4 kt (38%) and 12 kt (33%) of total emissions in 2016 respectively.

Figure 1: Trends in Canadian black carbon emissions (2013 to 2016)


Figure 1: is a graph representing trends in Canadian Black Carbon Emissions (2013 to 2016)
Long Description for Figure 1

Figure 1 displays trends in Canadian black carbon emissions in tonnes from 2013 to 2016.

Trends in Canadian black carbon emissions (2013 to 2016) (tonnes)
Sector: subsector 2013 2014 2015 2016
Sector total: Other 1 222.097 1 090.251 1 097.06 1 018.75
Sector total: Oil and Gas Industry 2 502.651 2 854.698 2 798.691 2 524.272
Sector total: Commercial / Residential / Institutional  12 717.72 12 703.91 12 571.22 12 644.68
Sector total: Transportation and Mobile Equipment  26 247.98 24 616.09 21 820.65 18 733.04

What Canada is doing to reduce black carbon emissions

Tackling black carbon is particularly important for Canada as the Arctic is disproportionately affected by substances such as black carbon. Canada is working both domestically and internationally, through organizations such as the Arctic Council, as well as the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, to take action to reduce black carbon.

Canada continues to take regulatory action to address air pollutant emissions from transportation, which also reduces black carbon, including regulations for on- and off-road diesel vehicles and engines manufactured or imported for sale in Canada and regulations to implement the North American Emissions Control Area to reduce emissions from shipping.

The Air Pollutant Emission Inventory Report 1990-2016 is a comprehensive overview of 17 air pollutants from various sources across Canada.

Find out more about Canada’s involvement in the Arctic Council


Data available on this website are current as of June 8, 2018. Ongoing improvements or future corrections may result in periodic updates.

As part of Environment and Climate Change Canada’s quality assurance process, we conduct a number of data checks for compliance purposes and to ensure completeness. Please contact us for more information.

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