National Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Canada’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2012 were 699 megatonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq), or 18% (108 Mt) above the 1990 emissions of 591 Mt. Steady increases in annual emissions characterized the first 15 years of this period, followed by fluctuating emission levels between 2005 and 2008, and a steep decline in 2009 mostly due to the economic down-turn. Despite the economic recovery, emissions have generally stabilized in the past three years.

Canada’s emissions growth between 1990 and 2012 was driven primarily by increased emissions from the fossil fuel industries and transportation. Emission reductions from 2005 to 2012 were driven primarily by reduced emissions from electricity generation and manufacturing industries.

National greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2012

National greenhouse gas emissions, Canada, 1990 to 2012

View data for this chart
How this indicator was calculated

Note: The national indicator tracks six GHGs: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) released by human activity (reported in Mt of CO2 eq). Canada signed the Copenhagen Accord in December 2009, thereby committing to reducing its GHG emissions to 17% below 2005 levels (using available estimates at that time) by 2020. Emission levels for some previous years have been revised in light of improvements to estimation methods and availability of new data.
Source: Environment Canada (2014) National Inventory Report 1990–2012: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

GHGs trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, just as the glass of a greenhouse keeps warm air inside. Human activity increases the amount of GHGs in the atmosphere, contributing to a warming of the Earth’s surface. This is called the enhanced greenhouse effect.

Over the past 200 years, humans have released GHGs into the atmosphere primarily from burning fossil fuels. As a result, more heat is being trapped and the temperature of the planet is increasing. Sea levels are rising as Arctic ice melts, and there are changes to the climate, such as more severe storms and heat waves. All of this impacts the environment, the economy and human health.

Related indicators

Other information


Theme I: Addressing Climate Change and Air Quality of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

This indicators are used to measure progress toward Goal 1: Climate Change – In order to mitigate the effects of climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emission levels and adapt to unavoidable impacts of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2013-2016.