Canada's greenhouse gas emissions dip

Canadian emissions of greenhouses gases fell roughly six per cent between 2008 and 2009, in large part because of the global recession, Environment Canada reports.

Canadian emissions of greenhouses gases fell roughly six per cent between 2008 and 2009, Environment Canada reports.

"This was the second year in a row that emissions decreased, caused in part by the global recession and reduced use of coal for electricity generation," said the report submitted to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change this week.

The decrease, equivalent to 42 megatonnes of carbon dioxide, brought Canada's 2009 emissions down to 690 megatonnes.

The annual report was submitted under requirements of the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement signed by Canada in 1998 to reduce global warming linked to emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.

Under the agreement, Canada committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent below 1990 levels by the five-year commitment period of 2008 to 2012.

Canada is nowhere close to meeting that commitment. In 2009, Canada's emissions were 17 per cent or 100 megatonnes above its 1990 total of 590 megatonnes. Fossil fuel extraction and production, as well as the transportation industry, were responsible for 42 per cent and 45 per cent of that growth respectively.

When mitigating factors such as land use and forestry are not taken into account, Canada's emissions grew by 24.1 per cent from 1990 to 2008.

This puts Canadian emission growth first among G8 countries and sixth overall among the OECD members and "economies in transition" (mostly in Eastern Europe) that signed Kyoto.

By contrast, U.S. emissions grew just 13.3 per cent during the same period and those of the European Union fell 11.3 per cent.

Under the Copenhagen Accord, the 2009 successor to the Kyoto Protocol, Canada has committed to reducing emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2020.

So far, emissions have decreased 41 megatonnes or 5.7 per cent since 2005.

Oil sands emissions up 40%

By sector:

  • In 2009, the energy sector was responsible for 82 per cent of emissions or 566 megatonnes, mostly from the combustion of fossil fuels.
  • Emissions from oil sands activities grew 40 per cent between 2005 and 2009, but was offset somewhat by a 12 per cent reduction in conventional oil production and a one per cent reduction in natural gas production, so that overall emissions from fossil fuel production rose by only four megatonnes or two per cent.
  • Between 2005 and 2009, emissions from electricity and heat generation fell 25 megatonnes, due to reduced demand and a reduction in coal-fired generation.
  • In the same period, during the global recession, emissions from manufacturing fell 17 megatonnes or 15 per cent. Transporation emissions rose less than one megatonne between 2005 and 2009.

Across the country:

  • Alberta was the top emitter in 2009 with 33.8 per cent of emissions, followed by Ontario with 23.9 per cent.
  • Saskatchewan's emissions grew 70 per cent — more than any other province —between 1990 and 2009, due to increases in the oil and gas industry as well as potash and uranium mining.
  • Alberta's total emissions grew around 38 per cent between 1990 and 2009 as it increased petroleum production for export.
  • Ontario's emissions fell between 2008 and 2009, putting its 2009 emissions seven per cent below levels in 1990, when it was the top emitter in the country. The drop was largely due to the effect of the recession on the manufacturing sector and a reduction in coal-fired electricity.
  • Emissions in most other provinces remained relatively stable.

The report noted that between 1990 and 2009, when emissions increased 17 per cent nationwide, Canada's GDP rose by 56 per cent during the same period.

"As a result, the emission intensity for the whole economy has improved considerably," the report said. It mainly credited that to the modernization of industrial processes and the transition to a more service-based economy.

Canada's emissions per capita also decreased from 21.3 tonnes in 1990 to 20.5 tonnes in 2009.