Environment and Climate Change Canada - Greenhouse gas sources and sinks: executive summary 2020

The Greenhouse gas sources and sinks: executive summary 2020 shows that Canada is not making significant advancement towards its NDCs set in accordance with the Paris Agreement despite reductions in emissions in many areas. Canada’s emissions reduction target in accordance with the Paris Agreement is to decrease emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 (1). Despite committing to this target in 2015 adopting the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change in 2016, Canada has barely made a dent in its yearly emissions (1). Canada's 2018 greenhouse gas emissions are only 0.1% less than 2005 levels (1) The largest yearly decrease in emissions since 2005 was 3.2% in 2016 (1). The most recent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions projections estimate that Canada’s 2030 GHG emissions will be 19% below 2005 levels (2). This is still significantly below the goal that Canada is committed to.

In the Greenhouse gas sources and sinks: executive summary 2020, GHG emissions are accounted for using the methodology established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2006 Guidelines for the preparation of National GHG Inventories (1). In this methodology, emissions are divided into the categories of Energy, Industrial Processes and Product Use, Agriculture Forestry and Other Land Use, and Waste.

The Energy category is further broken down into the subcategories of Stationary Combustion Sources; which includes the energy industry, manufacturing industries, construction, and residential (1), Transport; which includes domestic aviation, road and rail transportation (1), and Fugitive Sources; which are largely unintentional or irregular emissions, such as natural gas leaks, methane emissions during coal mining, and flaring during oil and gas extraction or refining (3). This means that all energy emissions originating from any economic sector or private use, including waste-to-energy streams, are placed in the Energy category. For example, the emissions that are allocated to the Agriculture category are from factors such as livestock populations and the application of inorganic nitrogen fertilizers, but any emissions from transportation or energy used by the agricultural industry are counted in the Energy category (1). Additionally, emissions from Industrial Processes and Product Use (IPPU) are non-energy GHG emissions that result from activities such as ethylene production, metal production, production and use of halocarbons, and the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs) as replacement refrigerants for ozone-depleting substances (1).

As shown in Figure ES-2, the majority of Canada’s emissions- more than 80%- are attributed to the total Energy category including Stationary Combustion Sources, Transport, and Fugitive Sources (1). According to the IPCC, it is normal for the energy sector to be the most significant sector in greenhouse gas emission inventories. (3) In countries with high economic status energy emissions are usually about 75 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions (3). Typically, fugitive emissions account for only a few percent of emissions of the energy sector unless the country is a major producer or transporter of fossil fuels (3). Canada’s fugitive emissions, as shown in Figure ES-2, are significant at 7.6% (1), and are a strong indication of the country’s fossil fuel production.

Within the Energy category, including the subcategories of Stationary Combustion, Transport, and Fugitive Sources, the top three emitters are oil and gas extraction including fugitive emissions from oil and natural gas, road transportation, and public heat and electricity production (1). Although emissions from oil and gas extraction have gone up since 2005, total emissions from Stationary Combustion Sources have decreased in the same period, largely due to 50% and 73% reductions in electricity generated from coal and oil respectively (1). This explains why Figure ES-6 shows decreases in emissions from all categories and subsections between 2005 and 2018 except for the Transport subsection.

Road transport is the largest contributor to the Transport subsection and accounts for approximately 71 percent of Transport emissions in 2018 (1). Although the average kilometres driven per vehicle has decreased since 2005, more kilometres have been driven overall because there are more vehicles on the road – notably trucks (1). The report does not further distinguish road transportation emissions based on types of economic sector or use. The report only states that since 2009 when emissions were at their lowest in the last decade, emissions from the number of light-duty gasoline trucks and heavy-duty diesel vehicles have both increased by 12 Mt (1). The report also refers to light-duty trucks as personal trucks (1). From this information, an approximation can be made that emissions from personal road transportation are equal to emissions from heavy-duty trucks used for various economic sectors. However, from the data given in the report, it is difficult to understand the extent to which different economic sectors and industries contribute to Transport emissions, as well as other Energy emissions, in Canada.

Section 5 of the Greenhouse gas sources and sinks: executive summary 2020 is dedicated to analyzing Canada’s emissions based on the economic sectors of Oil and Gas, Transportation, Buildings, Heavy Industry, Agriculture, Electricity, Waste & Others. From this perspective, Oil and Gas, Transportation, and Buildings are the largest emitters at 26%, 25% and 13% of the total CO2 equivalent released in 2018 (1). This section is very brief and a greater understanding of the methodology used to reallocate emissions into these economic sectors is necessary to fully appreciate this data.

In conclusion, the Greenhouse gas sources and sinks: executive summary 2020 shows that Canada has not made significant progress towards reducing yearly emissions levels and is not on track to meet its Paris Agreement emissions target, despite decreased emissions from a variety of areas. For example, the diminishing use of coal and oil to produce electricity greatly reduced emissions from electricity generation. Transport and Oil and Gas are shown to be significant contributors through both methodologies for inventorying emissions; by IPCC sector and economic sector.


1: Environment and Climate Change Canada. National inventory report … : greenhouse gases sources and sinks in Canada: executive summary. Ottawa: Environment Canada; 2020. Report No.: 11. Available from https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/climate-change/greenhouse-gas-emissions/sources-sinks-executive-summary-2020.html

2: Environment and Climate Change Canada. Canada's Fourth Biennial Report on Climate Change. Ottawa: Government of Canada; 2020. Available from http://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/climate-change/greenhouse-gas-emissions/fourth-biennial-report-climate-change.html

3:  Garg A, Kazunari K, Pulles T. 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories: Chapter 1: Introduction. Hayama: Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES); 2006. 29 p. Available from https://www.ipcc-nggip.iges.or.jp/public/2006gl/pdf/2_Volume2/V2_1_Ch1_Introduction.pdf

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