Black Carbon Emission 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 1990-2014 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.

2014 Black Carbon Report results

In 2014, approximately 43 000 tonnes (43 kilotonnes) of black carbon were emitted in Canada. Mobile sources account for 61.9% of total emissions and include off-road transportation (33%), on-road transportation (20%) and other transportation (8.9%). Non –industrial sources (e.g. power generation and residential home heating, etc.) account for 29.6% of total emissions. Industrial sources (e.g. petroleum industry, mining industry, aluminium industry, etc) represent the smallest portion of total emission with 8.5% (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Overview of Major Contributing Sources to National Black Carbon Emissions (2014)

Figure 1 is a pie graph representing black carbon emissions in 2014.

Long Description

Figure 1 is a pie graph representing black carbon emissions in 2014. Mobile sources have been broken out into off-road transport (33% of emissions), on-road transport (20%) and other transportation (8.9%). Non-industrial sources account for 29.6% of emissions, and industrial sources account for 8.5% of emissions.

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 December 1, 2015. 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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