Air Pollutant Emissions

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Air pollution problems such as smog and acid rain result from the presence of and interactions among various air pollutants that are released into the atmosphere. These air pollutants are released through human activities such as transportation (e.g., cars and trucks), the burning of fuels for electricity and heat production, industrial processes, and the use of certain products (e.g., paints and solvents). They are also released through natural sources.Footnote [1]

Air Pollutant Emissions indicators track emissions from human-related sources of sulphur oxides (SOX), nitrogen oxides (NOX), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), ammonia (NH3), carbon monoxide (CO) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). The emissions for these key air pollutants are retrieved from the Air Pollutant Emission Inventory compiled in part from the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI), Canada's legislated, publicly accessible inventory of pollutant releases from industrial and commercial facilities.

In 2014, emission levels of five key air pollutants (SOX, CO,  VOC, NOX and PM2.5) were 63% to 9% lower than in 1990; for NH3, emissions were 21% higher than in 1990.

Air pollutant emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2014

Line Chart

Long description

The indexed line chart shows emissions changes from 1990 to 2014, as a percent of 1990 emissions, for six key air pollutants in Canada: ammonia, fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide and sulphur oxides.

Data for this chart
Air pollutant emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2014
YearSulphur oxides
(annual emissions as percent of 1990 levels)
Nitrogen oxides
(annual emissions as percent of 1990 levels)
Volatile organic compounds
(annual emissions as percent of 1990 levels)
Ammonia
(annual emissions as percent of 1990 levels)
Carbon monoxide
(annual emissions as percent of 1990 levels)
Fine particulate matter
(annual emissions as percent of 1990 levels)
1990000000
1991-7-4-4-1-5-2
1992-11-4-52-7-5
1993-14-4-64-9-5
1994-20-1-77-11-3
1995-17-2-912-15-7
1996-16-2-1016-19-8
1997-180-1518-24-6
1998-200-1718-28-13
1999-23-1-2018-31-13
2000-22-3-2321-35-15
2001-23-6-3021-40-17
2002-25-7-3125-41-20
2003-26-8-3323-41-20
2004-27-12-3426-44-19
2005-29-14-3826-48-22
2006-36-18-4023-51-21
2007-38-18-4224-53-18
2008-44-21-4221-54-14
2009-52-27-4717-56-20
2010-56-24-4715-57-15
2011-59-26-5115-60-13
2012-60-30-5019-62-8
2013-61-32-5022-62-9
2014-63-33-5021-62-9

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator only reports air pollutant emissions from human-related sources.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2016) Air Pollutant Emission Inventory.

Overview of sources of air pollutant emissions

In 2014, the majority of Canada's SOX emissions came from industrial activities such as non-ferrous smelting and refining, from the oil and gas sector, and from the use of fuels for electricity and heating.

Transportation (road, rail, air and marine) released the largest proportion of Canada's NOX and CO emissions. Off-road vehicles were also an important source of NOX and CO emissions. The oil and gas industry was an important contributor to NOX emissions. Most of Canada's VOC emissions came from the oil and gas industry and from the use of paints and solvents. Agricultural activities were the main source of NH3 emissions. Finally, open sources, largely activities associated with construction operations and dust from paved and unpaved roads, were the most important sources of the PM2.5 in Canada. 

Distribution of air pollutant emissions by source, Canada, 2014

Bar chart

Long description

The series of bar charts shows the 2014 distribution of air pollutant emissions in Canada by source, as a percent of the national emissions for, from left to right, sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, ammonia, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter.

Data for this chart
Distribution of air pollutant emissions by source, Canada, 2014
SourceSulfur oxides
(percentage of national emissions)
Nitrogen oxides
(percentage of national emissions)
Volatile organic compounds
(percentage of national emissions)
Ammonia
(percentage of national emissions)
Carbon monoxide
(percentage of national emissions)
Fine particulate matter
(percentage of national emissions)
Oil and gas industry23.823.234.00.68.20.6
Other industries47.38.95.72.610.72.9
Transportation (road, rail, air, marine)3.242.19.31.632.61.5
Off-road vehicles<0.112.610.30.126.01.3
Fuel for electricity and heating24.411.60.20.31.10.5
Home firewood burning0.21.010.70.418.89.1
Incineration and miscellaneous0.20.12.50.20.10.5
Paints and solventsn/an/a14.60.9n/a<0.1
Agriculture (livestock, crop production and fertilizer)0.80.211.793.4<0.119.8
Open sources0.20.41.00.92.663.8

Note: n/a = not available

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator only reports air pollutant emissions from human-related sources.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2016) Air Pollutant Emission Inventory.

Overview of air pollutant emissions by province and territory

In 2014, Alberta had the highest emissions of all pollutants except CO. Emissions of SOX, NOX, and VOC in the province were high mainly due to the oil and gas industry, NH3 as a result of agriculture and PM2.5 related to construction activities. Quebec had the highest CO emission levels, mainly because of high emissions from transportation and home fire wood burning.

Distribution of air pollutant emissions by province and territory, Canada, 2014

Bar Chart

Long description

The series of bar charts show the 2014 distribution of air pollutant emissions in Canada by province and territory, as a percent of the total emissions for, from left to right, sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, ammonia, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter.

Data for this chart
Distribution of air pollutant emissions by province and territory, Canada, 2014
Province or territorySulphur oxides
(percent of national emissions)
Nitrogen oxides
(percent of national emissions)
Volatile organic compounds
(percent of national emissions)
Ammonia
(percent of national emissions)
Carbon monoxide
(percent of national emissions)
Fine particulate matter
(percent of national emissions)
Newfoundland and Labrador2.23.33.10.24.41.2
Prince Edward Island0.10.30.40.50.60.4
Nova Scotia6.63.82.00.72.71.7
New Brunswick1.91.91.50.72.41.5
Quebec10.812.014.314.226.712.6
Ontario22.716.418.117.923.416.9
Manitoba13.93.14.212.03.75.0
Saskatchewan9.38.212.920.44.919.3
Alberta25.535.334.729.519.136.3
British Columbia6.914.38.13.811.24.9
Yukon<0.10.10.1<0.10.20.1
Northwest Territories and Nunavut0.11.00.5<0.10.70.2

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.26 KB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator only reports air pollutant emissions from human-related sources.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2016) Air Pollutant Emission Inventory.

Details on air pollutant emissions

Related indicators

Other information

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These indicators are used to measure progress towards Target 2.1: Outdoor Air Pollutants – Improve outdoor air quality by ensuring compliance with new or amended regulated emission limits by 2020 and thus reducing emissions of air pollutants in support of AQMS objectives of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2013–2016.

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