June 4, 2007

Canada's GHG emissions slow down, but remain nearly 33% over Kyoto target

In 2005, Canada released a total of 747 megatonnes (Mt) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, 32.7% above the target set for the nation under the Kyoto Protocol. The 2005 total, reported in the annual GHG inventory submitted by Environment Canada to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), reflects an increase of 25.3% over the 1990 level of 596 Mt, a 0.3% increase from 2003, and no increase from 2004.

The inventory report shows a continued increase in GHG emissions from the transportation sector, although the growth curve almost flattened between 2003 and 2005. This is attributed primarily to a significant decline in emissions from electricity; other contributing factors included a lower demand for heating fuels due to warmer winters, and a reduced rate of increase in fossil fuel production.

"The slowdown in GHG growth appears to have been the result of action taken by the provinces to reduce coal-fired and increase nuclear and hydro-electricity generation," Environment Minister John Baird observed.

The data submitted to the UNFCCC contains updated estimates from previous years. The development of more accurate measuring methods has enabled Environment Canada to provide consistent and comparable trend information for emissions and removals estimates. The report discusses both short-term and long-term trends and examines GHG releases by sector and by province/territory.

Over the short term, i.e. between 2003 and 2005, GHG emissions rose only slightly, about 2 Mt, or only 0.3%. Large increases in certain areas (notably transportation and, to a smaller extent, agriculture) were offset by a significant decline in emissions associated with electricty and heat generation.

During this period, there was also an uncharacteristically small emission increase from the fossil fuel industries. Despite increasing electricity demand, greenhouse gas emissions from generation decreased by more than 6 Mt due to a reduction in emissions from coal-fired generation and an increase in nuclear and hydro electricity production.

The fossil fuel industries, consisting of oil, gas and coal production, refining and transmission showed a rather small (0.5% or 3/4 Mt) growth between 2003 and 2005. During the period, average oil and gas production increased by only 1.2% annually. The inventory report says this appears to reflect the impact of hurricane Katrina on North American markets, as well as decreased synthetic oil production after a fire caused a nine-month shutdown at a large oil sands facility.

Milder temperatures during the winters of 2004 and 2005 (compared to the winter of 2003) led to lower energy requirements for space heating in the commercial/institutional and residential sectors. In 2005, heating degree days (an indicator of the necessity for space heating due to the severity of cold weather) were down 5% from 2003 and 2.2% from 2004, both on a national basis. This fact almost certainly had an impact on fossil fuel consumption: in these two sectors, GHG emissions declined by a total of 4.4 Mt over the two-year period.

Despite the recent slowing in emissions growth, long-term growth remains large. Between 1990 and 2005, Canada's oil and production increased significantly, much of the product sent to the U.S. This in turn led to a substantial increase in Canada's GHG emissions associated with the production and transportation of fuel for export. The 2005 level of emissions associated with these exports was 73 Mt, a 162% increase over the 1990 level of 28 Mt.

Reviewing GHG emission trends by sector, the report notes that between 1990 and 2005, emissions from the energy industries and transportation sectors increased by about 137 Mt. This accounted for most of the overall net increase of about 151 Mt in Canada's annual GHG emissions during this period.

Emissions from energy industries (including fossil fuel industries, electricity and steam generation, mining, fugitive releases and combustion emissions from pipelines) rose by about 90.8 Mt between 1990 and 2005.

The greatest contributors to the overall increase were electricity steam generation (this sub-sector recording a 34.9% increase in emissions, for a total of 33.3 Mt) and vehicles, reporting 37 Mt in emissions, a 29.2% increase.

Petroleum industries also contributed significantly, with a total increase of 56.4% in GHG emissions between 1990 and 2005. Much of the increase in this is attributable to the rapid growth in crude oil and natural gas exports to the U.S. over the period, says the report.

Fugitive releases (e.g. methane leaks from pipelines) contributed just as significantly to GHG emissions. Current estimates show an increase of 23.0 Mt between 1990 and 2005, a rise of about 54%. Again, much of this increase is the result of higher crude oil and natural gas exports.

Transportation sector emissions rose by about 48.8 Mt, or 32.8% from 1990 to 2005. Of particular note in this sector is an increase of over 109%, or 23.2 Mt, in GHG emissions from light duty gasoline trucks, reflecting the continued popularity of sport utility vehicles, notes the report.

Emissions from heavy-duty diesel vehicles increased 17.8 Mt over the period, an indicator of greater heavy truck transport. These increases were offset, however, by reductions in emissions from vehicles fuelled by gasoline and alternative fuels: these emissions declined by 6.0 Mt and 1.5 Mt, respectively.

The industrial processes, agriculture and waste sectors recorded a 0.2 Mt decrease and 10.8 and 4.8 Mt increases, respectively, since 1990.

Emissions in the industrial processes sector witnessed an overall decrease of 0.2 Mt, or 0.4% from 1990 to 2005. Within this sector, significant increases (e.g. a nearly ten-fold growth (4.4 Mt) since 1995 in emissions from use of HFCs in refrigeration and air conditioning as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances) were offset by equally substantial reductions.

Emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) from Canada's sole adipic acid manufacturing plant, for example, declined by 8.1 Mt as a result of the installation of N2O abatement technology. As well, improved PFC emission control technologies led to a 15.1% drop (1.4 Mt) in process emissions from the aluminum industry between 1990 and 2005.

In the agriculture sector, the expansion of the beef cattle, swine, and poultry industries, along with increases in the application of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer in the Prairies resulted in a long-term emission growth of 10.8 Mt (23.6%), contributing the equivalent of a 7.2% to the overall national increase.

From 1990 to 2005, GHG emissions from waste increased by about 4.8 Mt, or 20.7%, surpassing the population growth of 16.5%. This appears largely due to the generation of increasing amounts of landfilled waste. The report points out that the increase would have been larger had numerous landfill gas recovery projects and waste diversion programs (composting and recycling) not been implemented in Canada.

Canada's 2005 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report may be viewed on-line at www.ec.gc.ca/pdb/ghg/inventory_report/2005.

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