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 Emission 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 1990-2015 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.

2015 Black Carbon Report results

In 2015, approximately 38 000 tonnes (38 kilotonnes) of black carbon were emitted in Canada. Transportation and mobile sources account for 22 kt (57.3%) of total emissions and include off-road transportation 11 kt (29.7%), on-road transportation 6 kt (16.7%) and other transportation 4 kt (10.9%). Commercial / Residential / Institutional and Oil and gas industry sources account for 13 kt (33.0%) and 3 kt (6.7%) of total emissions respectively. Ore and mineral industries, Manufacturing, Electric power generation (utilities), and Agriculture sources each account for less than 2% of total emissions.

Figure 1: Overview of Major Contributing Sources to National Black Carbon Emissions (2015)

Figure 1 is a pie graph representing black carbon emissions in 2014.
Long Description
Sector Black Carbon
(tonnes)
Percentage of Total
Ore and Mineral Industries 449 1.2%
Oil and Gas Industry 2,556 6.7%
Electric Power Generation (Utilities) 241 0.6%
Manufacturing 434 1.1%
On-Road Transport 6,404 16.7%
Off-Road Transport 11,369 29.7%
Other Transport 4,156 10.9%
Agriculture 24 0.1%
Commercial / Residential / Institutional 12,610 33.0%
Total 38,243 100%

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 1990-2015 is a comprehensive overview of 17 air pollutants from various sources across Canada.

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

Disclaimer

Data available on this website are current as of July 14, 2017. Ongoing improvements or future corrections may result in periodic updates.

As part of Environment 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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