Canada’s Emissions Trends

Environment Canada
July 2011

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2.0 GHG Emissions by Sector

2.1 Emissions by Activity and Economic Sector

In Canada’s National GHG Inventory (compiled under the IPCC reporting requirements9) greenhouse gas emissions are categorized by emitting activity: e.g., emissions from energy use, fugitive emissions, transportation emissions, and emissions from industrial processes.

Environment Canada allocates emissions on the basis of the economic sector from which they originate, to the extent possible, for the purposes of analyzing trends and policies.

Figure 2 below shows the distribution of 2005 emissions on an activity basis (as reported in the National Inventory Report) versus an economic sector basis (used in the economic analysis and modelling presented here). Notable differences arise with respect to transportation, as this activity has large off-road and other emissions that are intrinsic to the emissions profile of specific economic sectors. Among other adjustments to transportation emissions as stated in the National Inventory report for 2005:

In addition, stationary combustion emissions under the National Inventory report are allocated mainly to the electricity, Emissions-Intensive Trade-Exposed (EITE) industries, and buildings sectors of the economy. Almost all industrial process and fugitive emissions under the Inventory are aligned with the economic sector that generates them (primarily in the EITE sector). In addition, a portion of emissions from across various Inventory activity categories are assigned to light manufacturing industries as appropriate (combined with emissions from landfills into the Waste and Others sector in Figure 2).

Figure 2 Total Canadian 2005 GHG emissions – Activity vs Economic Sector (Mt CO2e)

Figure 2 shows total Canadian greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector versus by activity (National Inventory method) as recorded in 2005 as expressed in megatonnes of CO₂ equivalent

Text Description for Figure 2

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2.2 Historical Emissions

Table 1 shows historical emission levels for selected years up to 2008 (the last available year of historical emissions numbers under the National Inventory Report at the time this analysis was conducted) for each of the major economic sectors generating emissions.

Table 1 GHG Emissions by Economic Sector (Mt CO2e)
  1990 1995 2000 2005 2008
Transportation 122 131 147 164 171
Electricity 97 102 134 126 120
Oil and Gas 101 124 148 153 158
Emissions-Intensive Trade-Exposed Industries 91 93 84 80 76
Buildings 70 75 79 80 79
Agriculture 60 67 73 74 75
Waste and Others 51 49 52 54 55
Total 592 641 717 731 734

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Emissions from the transportation sector (including passenger, freight, and off-road emissions) are the largest contributor to Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, representing 22 per cent of overall greenhouse gases in 2005.

The increase in emissions from road transportation was due mainly to the increase in emissions from light-duty gasoline trucks and heavy-duty diesel vehicles. The number of light trucks on the road doubled between 1990 and 2008, while the number of passenger cars remained virtually constant.

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Historically over the 1990 to 2008 period, emissions from the electricity sector (including heat generation) increased in parallel to rising demand for electricity both domestically and to satisfy export to the United States. Additionally, fossil fuel power generation became more prominent in the overall generating portfolio between 1990 and 2002. Electricity-related emissions declined between 2002 and 2008 because of measures such as a return to service of a number of nuclear units and fuel switching to natural gas, as well some decline in coal-fired electricity generation in Ontario.

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Oil and Gas Production and Refining

Conventional oil and gas production and petroleum refining emissions are related primarily to the production, transmission, processing, refining and distribution of all oil and gas products. Canada’s oil and gas production increased by approximately 70 per cent from 1990 to 2008, in large part due to increased exports to the U.S.. As a result of increased output, emissions from the sector increased 57 Mt over this period.

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Emissions-Intensive and Trade-Exposed Industries (EITE)

Greenhouse gas emissions from the EITE industries decreased by 15 Mt between 1990 and 2008. The decline in emissions was due to a modest rate of economic growth in the resource-based industries coupled with technology improvements. The installation of nitrous oxide abatement technology in Canada’s only adipic acid manufacturing plant and the improved emission control technologies for perfluorocarbons within the aluminum industry contributed significantly to the overall decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in this sector.

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Emissions in Canada’s commercial and residential buildings increased by 9 Mt overall between 1990 and 2008. This increase was driven by strong growth in Canada’s service-oriented industries. Emissions in the commercial sector increased by 36 % while residential emissions decreased by 1%. The reduction in residential emissions was mainly due to improved energy standards for homes and the adoption of higher-efficiency furnaces and other improved appliances.

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Canada’s agriculture emissions are made up mostly of emissions of methane and nitrous oxide from agricultural production systems. Between 1990 and 2008 emissions increased by 15 Mt. This was mainly due to the expansion of the beef cattle and swine populations, and increases in the application of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer in the Prairies.

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Waste and Others

From 1990 to 2008, emissions from waste and others increased by 4 Mt GHG emissions from landfills increased by over 15% over that period – lower than the population growth of approximately 20% – mainly due to recycling and other waste-management practices.


9 Canada submits an annual National Inventory Report on Greenhouse Gases Sources and Sinks to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change per the reporting requirements of the International Panel on Climate Change.


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