As required by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), Canada submitted its National Inventory Report on April 14, available from the U.N. website. The Executive Summary at the Canadian government website announces that the Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were 729 million tons of CO2 and equivalent in 2018, (the latest figures available). This is an increase of 15 million tons from 2017, and a reduction of only 1 million tons from 2005 – making Canada’s Paris Agreement target of a 30% reduction from 2005 levels a very challenging goal. The Executive Summary attributes the 2018 performance to “higher fuel consumption for transportation, winter heating and oil and gas extraction.” The Toronto Star summarizes the official report in “Canada’s emissions count jumped 15 million tonnes in 2018 from previous year, report shows” (April 15) ; a summary also appeared in The National Observer, focused on British Columbia. The federal Green Party press release points out that Canada has missed the February deadline to submit its new target for Nationally Determined Contributions, and calls for Canada to reduce our GHG’s to 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. (In comparison, the latest EU target under debate is a 55% reduction by 2030 ).
The full National Inventory Report presents statistics since 1990, and analyses trends by region and according to industries – including energy, industrial processes, agriculture, land use (forestry) and waste management. It also measures emissions in 2018 by important gases, including carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane. Carbon dioxide (CO2) accounted for 80% of Canada’s total emissions. Nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions (76% of which come from agriculture) accounted for 5% in 2018, a 2.4% decrease from 1990 levels. Synthetic gases (HFC’s, PFC’s, SF6 and NF3) constituted slightly less than 2% of national emissions.
Canada’s other big polluter: methane
According to Canada’s National Inventory Report, methane accounted for 13% of Canada’s total emissions in 2018, an increase of 1% since 1990. 43% of those emissions are attributed to fugitive sources in oil and natural gas systems and another 31% from agriculture. The International Energy Agency also tracks methane emissions from the oil and gas industry here , and in February 2020 summarized and critiqued Canada’s new policies to reduce methane emissions attributable to the oil and gas industry. Methane (CH4) is a growing concern for global GHG emissions – as reported in an article in Scientific American “Methane levels reach an all-time high” (April 12) , which summarizes recent reports by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) .
The House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources delivered its report on The Future of Canada’s Oil and Gas Industry in September 2016; see the WCR coverage from September here. On January 19, the Government released its Official Response to the Committee Report, with this introductory statement: “It is clear to our Government that in order for the energy sector to continue to be a driver of prosperity and play a part in meeting global demand for energy, resource development must go hand in hand with the environmental and social demands of Canadians.” Not surprising then, that when Donald Trump opened the door for construction of the Keystone Pipeline on January 24, Justin Trudeau and his cabinet members welcomed the news .
Yet author Marc Lee reinforces what others have stated in his January 25 article in CCPA Policy Notes. “Canada can’t have it both ways on environment” demonstrates that “the amount of fossil fuel removed from Canadian soil that ends up in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide—has grown dramatically. ” Although not technically “counted” in our own emissions reporting under the Paris Agreement, the emissions from Canada’s fossil fuel exports, counted in the countries where they are burned, is greater than Canada’s total GHG emissions within the country. Lee goes on: “Based on our share of global fossil fuel reserves, Canada could continue to extract carbon at current levels for between 11 and 24 years at most (the smaller the carbon budget, the less the damages from climate change). This means a planned, gradual wind-down of these industries needs to begin immediately.”
Marc Lee’s article summarizes a more complete report he authored for the Corporate Mapping Project, jointly led by the University of Victoria, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Parkland Institute. Extracted Carbon: Re-examining Canada’s contribution to climate change through fossil fuel exports updates a 2011 CCPA report, Peddling GHGs: What is the Carbon Footprint of Canada’s Fossil Fuel Exports? in the context of the Paris Agreement and Canada’s contribution to the global carbon budget. It concludes that “Plans to further grow Canada’s exports of fossil fuels are thus contradictory to the spirit and intentions of the Paris Agreement. Growing our exports could only happen if some other producing countries agreed to keep their fossil fuel reserves in the ground. The problem with new fossil fuel infrastructure projects, like Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plants and bitumen pipelines, is that they lock us in to a high-emissions trajectory for several decades to come, giving up on the 1.5 to 2°C limits of Paris.” It follows that “Canadian climate policy must consider supply-side measures such as rejecting new fossil fuel infrastructure and new leases for exploration and drilling, increasing royalties, and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies.”