Market Snapshot: Canada’s historical GHG emissions – 2020 Update

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Release date: 2020-08-12

Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increased by 21% between 1990 and 2018Footnote 1; from 603.2 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent (MT CO2e) to 729.2 MT CO2e. Emissions from the oil and gas, electricity, transportation, and coal production sectors made up approximately 61% of emissions in 2018.

After a steady trend upward in the 1990s, emissions trends since 2000 have varied from year to year. The largest drop in emissions came during the 2008 financial crisis (a 61.8 MT, or 8.33%, decline between 2007 and 2009). Although trending upward, emissions in 2018 were still slightly below pre-financial crisis levels.

Figure 1. GHG emissions by sector in Canada from 1990 to 2018

Source and Description

Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada

Description: The stacked column graph above shows GHG emissions by sector in Canada from 1990 to 2018. Overall, GHG emissions in Canada increased from 603.2 MT CO2e in 1990 to 729.1 MT CO2e in 2018, after peaking at 742.1 MT CO2e in 2001. Since 1990, the oil and gas sector and transportation sector have been the largest emitters.

The long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canada’s GHG emissions remains uncertain. However, short-term emissions are expected to decline due to less consumer demand for fuels and electricity as well as less activity in the upstream oil and gas sector.

GHG emissions since 1990 were driven by increased transportation (from 120.3 MT to 185.9 MT) and oil and gas (from 105.7 MT to 193.2 MT) sectors. Most of the oil and gas sector’s increase was driven by oil sands production, particularly in situ extraction. Over this period, technological and operational efficiency improvements have helped to partially offset growth in both sectors.

The electricity sector witnessed the largest decline in GHG emissions, driven by a declining share of coal generation. Between 1990 and 2018, national emissions from electricity generation went from 94.7 MT to 64 MT. Ontario completed its phase-out of coal-fired generation in 2014. Provinces that are still relying heavily on coal to generate electricity (Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan) are also gradually phasing-out.

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