Air pollutant emissions

Access PDF (875 KB)

Air pollution problems, such as smog and acid rain, result from the release of pollutants into the atmosphere. The majority of these pollutants come from human activities, such as transportation, the burning of fuels for electricity and heating, and industry. They are also released from natural sources, such as forest fires and from vegetation.

Summary

The indicators report emissions released through human activities for 6 key air pollutants. For each pollutant, indicators are provided at the national and regional level, and by source. Facility-level emissions are also provided through an interactive map.

Key results

Air pollutant emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2015

Indexed line chart of changes in emissions of 6 air pollutants. Long description below

Long description

The indexed line chart shows changes in emissions from 1990 to 2015, as a percentage of 1990 emissions, for 6 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 2015
YearSulphur oxides (annual emissions as a percentage of 1990 levels)Nitrogen oxides (annual emissions as a percentage of 1990 levels)Volatile organic compounds (annual emissions as a percentage of 1990 levels)Ammonia (annual emissions as a percentage of 1990 levels)Carbon monoxide (annual emissions as a percentage of 1990 levels)Fine particulate matter (annual emissions as a percentage of 1990 levels)
1990000000
1991-7-42-1-2-2
1992-11-222-3-5
1993-14053-1-5
1994-21557-3-3
1995-167512-6-7
1996-1610516-8-7
1997-1717218-10-6
1998-1919218-9-13
1999-2222-318-11-13
2000-2220-522-13-15
2001-2214-1222-19-17
2002-2412-1225-20-19
2003-2511-1423-23-21
2004-265-1627-28-23
2005-291-2026-35-24
2006-35-3-2424-39-24
2007-37-4-2624-42-21
2008-43-7-2721-43-18
2009-52-14-3218-46-25
2010-55-12-3216-47-20
2011-58-14-3515-50-19
2012-59-18-3419-52-15
2013-59-20-3423-53-16
2014-61-20-3321-53-16
2015-66-22-3622-54-18

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.47 KB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator reports air pollutant emissions from human activities only.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2017) Air Pollutant Emission Inventory.

More information

Between 1990 and 2015, the largest emissions reductions were observed for SOX, which decreased by 66%. It was followed by CO emissions (54% reduction), VOCs (36%), NOX (22%) and PM2.5 (18%). These reductions since 1990 are due in part to government actions and voluntary initiatives from key industrial emitters that were put in place to restrict or eliminate the release of air pollutants in Canada. These actions have achieved reductions in air pollution through various regulations, industry actions and technical improvements for key sources.

In 2015, the majority of emissions of the 6 key air pollutants in Canada came from ore and mineral industries, transportation, the oil and gas industry, agriculture, and dust and fires (for example, road dust, prescribed forest burning).

Distribution of air pollutant emissions by source, Canada, 2015

Bar charts showing the air pollutant emissions by source. Long description below

Long description

The series of bar charts shows the 2015 distribution of air pollutant emissions in Canada by source, as a percentage of the total national emissions for, from left to right, sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, ammonia, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter. The sources from top to bottom are: oil and gas industry; manufacturing; ore and mineral industries; transportation (road, rail, air and marine); off-road vehicles and mobile equipment; building heating and energy generation; electric utilities; home firewood burning; incineration and waste; paints and solvents; agriculture (livestock, crop production and fertilizer); dust and fires; miscellaneous.

Data for this chart
Distribution of air pollutant emissions by source, Canada, 2015
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 industry22.224.737.30.59.60.6
Manufacturing4.53.95.92.42.41.1
Ore and mineral industries45.84.30.70.39.22.0
Transportation (road, rail, air and marine)1.743.68.01.429.71.3
Off-road vehicles and mobile equipment<0.110.68.80.123.61.1
Building heating and energy generation0.43.30.20.10.60.3
Electric utilities23.98.00.10.10.70.2
Home firewood burning0.31.012.40.421.310.0
Incineration and waste0.30.30.70.90.30.2
Paints and solvents<0.1<0.117.5n/a<0.1<0.1
Agriculture (livestock, crop production and fertilizer)0.90.25.393.8<0.119.6
Dust and fires<0.10.10.3<0.12.462.3
Miscellaneous<0.1<0.12.80.10.21.0

Note: n/a = not available.

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.43 KB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator reports air pollutant emissions from human activities only.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2017) Air Pollutant Emission Inventory.

The sources responsible for the majority of Canada's air pollutant emissions in 2015 were the following:

  • ore and mineral industries were responsible for the majority of SOX emissions
  • transportation (road, rail, air and marine) was the main source of NOX and CO emissions (off-road vehicles and mobile equipment were also important sources of NOX and CO emissions)
  • most of the VOC emissions came from the oil and gas industry and from the use of paints and solvents
  • agriculture (livestock, crop production and fertilizer) accounted for the majority of NH3 emissions
  • dust (for example, from unpaved roads and construction operations) and fires were the most important sources of for PM2.5 emissions.

The provinces of Quebec, Ontario and Alberta accounted for more than 55% of Canada's total emissions of the 6 key air pollutants in 2015.

Distribution of air pollutant emissions by province and territory, Canada, 2015

Bar charts showing the air pollutant emissions by province. Long description below

Long description

The series of bar charts show the 2015 distribution of air pollutant emissions in Canada by province and territory, as a percentage of the total emissions for, from left to right, sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, ammonia, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter. The provinces and territories from top to bottom are: Newfoundland and Labrador; Prince Edward Island; Nova Scotia; New Brunswick; Quebec; Ontario; Manitoba; Saskatchewan; Alberta; British Columbia; Yukon; Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Data for this chart
Distribution of air pollutant emissions by province and territory, Canada, 2015
Province or territorySulphur 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)
Newfoundland and Labrador1.93.42.50.23.41.2
Prince Edward Island<0.10.30.40.50.60.4
Nova Scotia6.13.72.00.72.51.7
New Brunswick2.11.71.70.72.21.5
Quebec10.811.815.414.327.213.0
Ontario24.116.419.517.224.916.9
Manitoba14.62.53.712.43.55.0
Saskatchewan10.37.612.421.15.619.4
Alberta24.036.333.329.218.535.6
British Columbia5.714.68.93.711.45.0
Yukon<0.10.1<0.1<0.1<0.1<0.1
Northwest Territories and Nunavut0.31.50.2<0.10.20.2

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.25 KB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The indicator reports air pollutant emissions from human activities only.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2017) Air Pollutant Emission Inventory.

In 2015, emissions of the 6 key air pollutants were highest in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

  • Alberta had the highest NOX (36% of Canadian emissions), VOCs (33%), NH3 (29%) and PM2.5 (36%) emissions
  • Ontario had the highest SOX emissions (24%)
  • Quebec had the highest CO emissions (27%)

Saskatchewan was also an important emitter of NH3 and PM2.5, accounting for about 20% of Canadian emissions of these pollutants.

Consult Air pollution: drivers and impacts for information on the impacts of air pollution on health, the economy and the environment, as well as information on the federal regulations administered under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999) addressing air pollution.

For detailed information on air pollutant emissions, consult:

Details on air pollutant emissions

About the indicators

What do the indicators measure

Air pollutant emissions indicators track emissions from human activities of 6 key air pollutants: sulphur oxides (SOX), nitrogen oxides (NOX), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), ammonia (NH3), carbon monoxide (CO) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Black carbon, which is a component of PM2.5, is also reported.Footnote [1] Sectoral indicators on air pollutant emissions from transportation, off-road vehicles and mobile equipment, electric utilities and the oil and gas industry provide additional analysis on the largest sources of Canada's air pollutant emissions.

For each air pollutant, the indicators are provided at the national and provincial/territorial levels. They also identify the major sources of emissions and provide links to detailed information on air pollutant emissions from facilities.Footnote [2]

Why are these indicators important

Canadians are exposed to air pollutants on a daily basis, which can cause adverse health and environmental effects. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ground-level ozone (O3) are key components of smog and have been associated with pulmonary and cardiovascular health issues even at very low levels. While causing effects of their own, NOX (such as nitrogen dioxide [NO2]) and VOCs are the main contributors to the formation of O3. Nitrogen oxides, SOX (such as sulphur dioxide [SO2]), NH3 and VOCs also lead to the formation of PM2.5 in the air, in addition to the PM2.5 that is emitted directly. Sulphur oxides and NOX can also lead to the formation of acid deposition (acid rain) that can harm the environment, materials, living organisms, and humans.

Consult the Air pollution: drivers and impacts web page for information on the human health, environmental and economic impacts of air pollution.

Black carbon is estimated to be the third largest contributor in the world to current global warming. Black carbon is of particular significance in polar regions, where the deposition of particles on ice and snow darken the surface, increasing the absorption of sunlight and accelerate melting. 

The Air pollutant emissions indicators are intended to inform Canadians and decision makers about progress made towards reducing emissions from human-related sources of air pollutants and about the effectiveness of emission reduction measures implemented to improve ambient air quality in Canada. The indicators are also used to assess progress towards the 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

What are the related indicators

The International comparison of air pollutant emissions indicators track air pollutant emissions for Canada and other member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for which emissions data are available.

The Air quality indicators track ambient concentrations of PM2.5, O3, SO2, NO2, and VOCs at the national and regional level and at local monitoring stations.

The Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions indicators report trends on Canada's GHG emissions nationally, per person and per unit gross domestic product, by province and territory, by economic sector and from large facilities.

FSDS icon. Safe and healthy communities Safe and healthy communities

The indicators support the measurement of progress towards the long-term goal of the 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy: All Canadians live in clean, sustainable communities that contribute to their health and well-being.

Access PDF (875 KB)

Date modified: