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Canadian greenhouse gas emissions stabilize despite economic growth - 16 April 2012.

A government report measuring Canada's greenhouse gas (GHG) production for 2010 has indicated a leveling off of GHG's emissions even as the economy heats up.

Canadian greenhouse gas emission levels remained stable in most economic areas in 2010 except in Alberta's and Saskatchewan where expanding oil sands activities led to a rise in emissions.

The report, National Inventory Report, Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada, 1990-2010, released this week by Environment Minister Peter Kent, indicates that from 2009-2010, combined emissions rose to 692 megatonnes (Mt) of GHG, an increase of 0.25 percent while the economy grew by 3.2 percent over the same period.

The National Inventory Report says Canada's greenhouse gas emissions stabilized in 2010 despite two years of steady declines.

The report also shows that

  • Ontario 'experienced an overall decrease of 15 Mt (43%) from its 2005 emissions largely due to the closure of coal plants
  • The Energy Sector including transportation produced the majority of Canada's GHG total emissions in 2010, at 81% or 562 Mt.

The report says major increases in oil and gas production (much of it for export) ...have contributed to the significant rise in GHG emissions. And that 'Ontario, the largest emitting province in 1990 ...has been surpassed by Alberta in more recent years as Alberta increased its production of petroleum resources for export markets.'


Changes in emission trends since 1997-2000 are attributed to increases in efficiency, the modernization of industrial processes, and structural changes in the composition of the economy from an industrial-orientated system to a more service-based economy. 

Increased investment in green energy, improved construction standards, and efforts by municipalities to reduce their carbon footprints are a significant factor in these trends. More fuel-efficient cars, more energy efficient building standards, and increased public transit ridership are also contributing to the trend toward lower energy use.

Editor's note: In a subsequent announcement, Environment Minister Kent has announced proposed regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new on-road heavy-duty vehicles, including large pick-up trucks, short/long-haul tractors, cement and garbage trucks, buses, and more, for the 2014 model year and beyond. See more here.

These long-term trends have had an increased impact on emissions since the late 1990s.Greenhouse gases rose by just two megatonnes (Mt), or 0.25 percent, to 692 megatonnes in 2010 despite economic growth of 3.2 per cent in that year.

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 with emissions somewhat stabilizing in 2010.

In 2005, Canada released 731 megatonnes of GHG's into the atmosphere. Emissions peaked in 2007 at 751 megatonnes before falling in 2008 and 2009 due to the global recession. An expected increase did not materialize, and in fact, GHG emissions have reduced in almost all sectors. While the economy grew by 60.5 percent between 1990 and 2010, emissions rose by 17.5 percent. This compares to a global GHG emission increase of 25 percent during the same time.

'This demonstrates that we can grow our economy without increasing emissions levels,' says Minister Kent. 'Through a responsible, practical approach to managing both the environment and the economy, we will continue on this path. This is not just a blip, this is a continuing trend.'

Sectoral Breakdown

Kent says Canada is making 'good progress' in its goal to reduce GHG emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Emissions have decreased in almost all sectors, includingoil and gas. The fossil fuel industries showed a decrease of about 5.5 Mt (3.4%) in GHG emissions between 2005 and 2010.

This was primarily due to a 17 percent decrease in natural gas production and an ongoing trend of declining conventional light and heavy crude oil production. This was partially offset by a 48 percent increase in crude bitumen and synthetic crude oil from Canada's oil sands.

However, the oil sands industry has been reducing its per-unit emissions, and in 2010 intensity was 26 percent lower than in 1990. This reduction in GHG intensity is significant, as larger and larger portions of production are derived from oil sands.

Steve Williams, president and chief operating officer of Suncor Energy Inc., speaking at the recent GLOBE 2012 noted that in the oil sands industry, greenhouse gas emissions intensity per barrel of oil produced has dropped by 40 per cent while 'absolute water use is down 30 per cent,' despite production levels now three times higher than they were in 1988. See GLOBE-net article 'Betting on the Clean Economy - GLOBE 2012 Plenary Report'

Reporting Facilities

In terms of facilities reporting, for the 2010 calendar year, 537 facilities reported theirgreenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to Environment Canada, totalling 262 megatonnes (Mt) ofcarbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq). This represents an increase of 4.3% from a slightly revised 2009 total of 251 Mt. Facilities required to report to Environment Canada are those with annual GHG emissions exceeding 50 kilotonnes (kt) CO2 eq.

In 2010, just over one-third (38%) of Canada's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions came from 537 facilities. These facilities reported emitting 262 megatonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxideequivalent (CO2 eq).

The GHG emissions data collected from facilities represent just over one-third (38%) of Canada's total GHG emissions and 59% of Canada's industrial GHG emissions. The degree of coverage of provincial industrial emissions varies significantly from province to province, depending on the size and number of industrial facilities in each province that have emissions above the 50-kt reporting threshold. (See Map)

One indicator of the trend toward lower emissions comes from the 277 facilities that have reported every year from 2005 to 2010. Their combined emissions accounting for the majority of the total emissions reported annually over this five-year period. Total emissions from these facilities have decreased by 14% from their 2005 reported total.

Copenhagen Accord Targets

Environment Canada admits that despite government and private sector initiatives, it will only get a quarter of the way to meeting its 2020 goals.

Canada signed the Copenhagen Accord in December 2009, thereby committing to reducing its GHG emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.

The 607 Mt target is based on 2005 emissions reported in the National Inventory Report 1990-2010: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada.

Although Canada is no longer part of the Kyoto Protocol, a national GHG report must be submitted annually to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.



16 April, 2012.