Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Canadian Economic Sector

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In 2015, Canada's total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were 722 megatonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq). The oil and gas sector was the largest GHG emitter in Canada, accounting for 189 Mt CO2 eq (26% of total emissions), followed closely by the transportation sector, which emitted 173 Mt CO2 eq (24%). The other Canadian economic sectors (i.e., buildings, electricity, heavy industry,Footnote 1 agriculture, and waste and others), each accounted for between 7% and 12% of total GHG emissions in Canada.

The increase in GHG emissions between 1990 and 2015 was mostly due to a 76% (82 Mt CO2 eq) increase in emissions in the oil and gas sector and a 42% (51 Mt CO2 eq) increase in the transportation sector. These increases were offset by a 16 Mt CO2 eq decrease in emissions in the electricity sector and a 22 Mt CO2 eq decrease in emissions from heavy industry.

Greenhouse gas emissions by Canadian economic sector, Canada, 1990 to 2015

Stacked column chart showing GHG emissions by Canadian economic sector - Long description below.

Long description

The stacked column chart shows greenhouse gas emissions in Canada by Canadian economic sector from 1990 to 2015. The emissions are expressed in megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Data for this chart
Greenhouse gas emissions by Canadian economic sector, Canada, 1990 to 2015
YearOil and gas (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Transportation (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Buildings (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Electricity (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Heavy industry (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Agriculture (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Waste and others (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
1990107.7121.873.594.596.660.156.9
1991106.2116.272.796.096.460.855.5
1992116.1117.174.2102.493.862.754.9
1993122.4119.277.993.092.964.553.0
1994127.0125.678.495.198.266.753.3
1995133.3126.679.198.099.069.755.6
1996140.4128.485.197.9101.672.256.1
1997141.1133.582.4108.9101.772.756.7
1998146.7140.075.0121.095.972.153.1
1999155.8144.678.6118.193.871.753.9
2000158.6146.785.1127.293.272.355.1
2001159.1149.181.6127.687.069.953.5
2002161.4150.086.4120.688.569.453.9
2003164.1154.991.3124.387.472.354.5
2004161.9159.689.6118.391.474.055.9
2005157.9163.285.5116.986.074.454.4
2006161.6163.980.4111.485.972.653.3
2007166.7168.286.0116.384.973.154.3
2008159.5168.285.7107.983.473.051.6
2009157.7163.283.894.770.770.048.7
2010159.7171.181.095.873.470.149.7
2011160.9171.386.788.579.770.050.3
2012173.8173.285.084.978.871.449.1
2013185.1176.385.582.176.973.949.4
2014189.9172.988.079.576.872.447.7
2015189.5173.085.678.774.672.847.6

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: The Waste and others sector consists of emissions from light manufacturing, construction, forest resources, waste, and coal production. The Heavy industry sector consists of emissions from mining, smelting and refining, pulp and paper, iron and steel, cement, lime and gypsum, and chemicals and fertilizers. Totals may not add up due to rounding.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2017) National Inventory Report 1990–2015: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector

In 2015, the oil and gas sector was the largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for 26% of total national emissions.

Emissions of GHGs from the oil and gas sector have increased 76% from 108 Mt CO2 eq in 1990 to 189 Mt CO2 eq in 2015. This increase is mostly attributable to the increased production of crude oil and the expansion of the oil sands industry.

Between 1990 and 2015, GHG emissions from conventional oil production have increased by 26%, while emissions from oil sands production have increased more than fourfold. About half of the increase in emissions from oil sands production over this period came from the growth of in situ production.

A temporary decrease in GHG emissions between 2008 and 2011 is mostly attributable to the world economic downturn that resulted in a lower global demand for petroleum products.

Oil and gas sector greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2015

Stacked column chart showing GHG emissions from the oil and gas sector in Canada - long description below

Long description

The stacked column chart shows greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector in Canada by type of activity from 1990 to 2015. The emissions are expressed in megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Data for this chart
Oil and gas sector greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2015
YearNatural gas (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Conven-tional oil (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Oil sands – mining and extraction (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Oil sands – in situ (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Oil sands – upgrading (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Other (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
199035.724.54.54.86.132.1
199134.723.74.94.86.431.7
199237.026.05.15.18.534.5
199339.327.25.15.39.635.9
199441.528.35.35.710.336.0
199543.431.05.06.110.337.5
199645.431.95.46.510.141.1
199742.834.25.37.79.941.2
199846.635.85.67.910.240.6
199955.536.05.87.810.740.0
200059.337.95.98.411.235.9
200159.936.87.18.412.134.8
200261.935.87.58.012.735.5
200363.533.79.29.113.834.9
200459.232.310.210.314.335.5
200557.230.29.611.313.735.8
200656.130.011.213.315.935.1
200759.830.512.313.416.634.1
200854.428.412.116.716.031.9
200951.427.213.117.717.630.8
201049.126.814.320.018.730.7
201148.727.514.421.719.229.4
201253.129.414.725.120.031.5
201357.131.515.927.919.833.0
201456.733.117.229.920.532.6
201555.630.818.133.719.132.2

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: Conventional oil includes production from frontier, light and heavy oil fields. The Other category includes downstream oil and gas emissions (combustion and fugitive emissions from the production of refined petroleum products and the distribution of natural gas to end consumers) and oil and gas transmission emissions (combustion and fugitive emissions from transmission, storage and delivery activities). Totals may not add up due to rounding.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2017) National Inventory Report 1990–2015: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

Between 1990 and 2015, crude oil production more than doubled in Canada. This was mostly driven by a rapid increase in production from the oil sands, which are more GHG-intensive than conventional sources. This change thus had a major impact on total GHG emissions from the sector.

During the same period, production of natural gas from unconventional sources, such as those requiring the use of multi-stage fracturing techniques, also increased significantly.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector

In 2015, the transportation sector was the second largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for 24% (173 Mt CO2 eq) of total national emissions. Emissions from passenger and freight travel amounted to 96% of these emissions, or 91 Mt CO2 eq and 76 Mt CO2 eq of transportation emissions, respectively.

Between 1990 and 2015, GHG emissions from the transportation sector grew by 42%. Part of this increase was due to a higher number of vehicles on the road and to changes in vehicle type used. Although total passenger emissions grew by 17%, emissions from cars declined by 23%, while emissions from light trucks (including trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles) doubled. Freight travel emissions grew by 125% between 1990 and 2015, with emissions from freight trucks tripling and emissions from other modes of freight transportation decreasing by 2%.

Transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2015

Stacked column chart shows GHG emissions from the transportation sector in Canada - long description below.

Long description

The stacked column chart shows greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector in Canada by mode of transportation from 1990 to 2015. The emissions are expressed in megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Data for this chart
Transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2015
YearPassenger cars (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Passenger light trucks (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Passenger aviation, bus, rail and motorcycle (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Freight trucks (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Freight aviation, rail and marine (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Other (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
199047.723.46.620.713.010.4
199145.222.95.818.312.611.4
199245.223.75.918.212.611.5
199345.324.85.519.912.011.6
199445.126.45.724.412.511.5
199544.626.86.025.811.711.7
199644.528.06.525.811.711.8
199744.630.06.629.111.911.3
199843.932.47.033.912.310.6
199945.234.27.335.912.59.4
200044.834.97.437.812.89.0
200145.136.17.140.013.07.7
200245.537.46.940.012.67.5
200345.338.77.142.713.47.7
200444.940.07.745.114.07.8
200544.540.67.549.514.26.8
200643.441.17.551.014.06.7
200742.841.87.853.815.07.0
200841.541.57.655.515.07.0
200941.042.46.753.912.36.8
201040.744.06.858.314.27.1
201139.243.86.861.313.96.2
201238.044.37.763.114.16.0
201338.345.87.964.913.46.0
201436.545.47.663.813.36.3
201536.646.47.663.212.76.4

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: The Other category includes other recreational, commercial and residential uses. Totals may not add up due to rounding.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2017) National Inventory Report 1990–2015: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

Passenger and freight travel emissions are influenced by a variety of factors, including population and economic growth, vehicle type, fuel efficiency, and fuel type. Changes in the mix of vehicle type used, such as the increasing preference of passenger vehicle owners to choose light trucks rather than more fuel-efficient passenger cars, played an important role in shaping the evolution of GHG emissions. Since 1990, the increase in the number of light trucks has been more than three times greater than the increase in the number of the overall fleet of passenger on-road vehicles.

At the same time, there have been continual improvements in the fuel efficiency of both passenger cars and light trucks over the last few decades.Footnote 2 However, these improvements were not sufficient to offset the increases in emissions due to the change in composition of the vehicle fleet.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector

In 2015, the electricity sector was the fourth largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for 11% of total national emissions.

Greenhouse gas emissions from combustion-based electricity generation have decreased from 94 Mt CO2 eq in 1990 to 79 Mt CO2 eq in 2015, a decrease of 15% over the period. The growing share of electricity generated from non-GHG-emitting sources (such as hydro, nuclear and other renewables) and from fuels less GHG-intensive than coal contributed to this decline in GHG emissions.

Electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2015

Stacked column chart shows GHG emissions from the electricity sector in Canada - long description below

Long description

The stacked column chart shows greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector in Canada by source of fuel from 1990 to 2015. The emissions are expressed in megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Data for this chart
Electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2015
YearCoal (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Natural gas (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)Other (megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent)
199080.22.711.5
199184.32.29.4
199287.34.410.7
199379.85.47.9
199483.55.36.3
199584.76.27.0
199686.55.56.0
199793.26.98.8
199898.99.312.9
199998.69.110.4
2000106.411.29.6
2001104.711.111.8
2002102.18.89.7
2003100.69.414.2
200494.010.214.1
200595.010.411.5
200691.011.49.0
200796.210.49.7
200890.510.27.2
200976.810.47.5
201077.413.54.9
201168.216.14.3
201263.017.64.3
201363.713.84.6
201461.213.35.0
201561.012.75.1

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: The Other category includes diesel fuel oil, heavy fuel oil, light fuel oil, motor gasoline, petroleum coke, own use of primary electricity, solid wood waste and still gas. Totals may not add up due to rounding.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2017) National Inventory Report 1990–2015: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

Electricity generation technologies have various levels of GHG emission intensity (which is defined as the quantity of GHGs emitted per unit of electricity produced). Hydroelectricity and nuclear power emit no GHGs when generating electricity, while coal-burning power plants have a higher GHG intensity than natural gas-burning power plants. The general decline in the GHG intensity of electricity generation of public electric utilities from 1990 to 2015 can be attributed partly to a change in the mix of plant types used to produce electricity.

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