Climate change in Canada

Climate change in Canada
Map of Canada showing the increases in GHG emissions by province/territory in 2008, compared to the 1990 base year.
  50%+ increase
  30%-50% increase
  20%-30% increase
  10%-20% increase
  0%-10% increase
  0%-10% decrease
  Each square represents 2 tonnes CO2 eq. per capita

In Canada mitigation of anthropogenic climate change is being addressed more seriously by the provinces than by the federal government.



In 2000 Canada ranked ninth out of 186 countries in terms of per capita greenhouse gas emissions without taking into account land use changes. In 2005 it ranked eighth.[1]

Canada is a large country with a low population density, so transportation – often in cold weather when fuel efficiency drops – is a big part of the economy. About 25 per cent of Canada's GHGs come from trucks, trains, airplanes and, especially, cars. Commerce, residential fuel consumption and industry (excluding oil and gas) account for 24 per cent of the total, but much of those emissions come from equipment (mining trucks, front-end loaders) that do not get recorded in the transportation ledger. Another 14 per cent come from non-energy sources. The rest come from the production and manufacture of energy and power. The following table summarizes forecast changes to annual emissions by sector in megatonnes.

Sector 2004 total 2004-2010 increase 2010-2020 increase 2020 total
Upstream oil and gas 127 7 -10 124
Upgrading and refining heavier oil 29 34 25 87
Power generation 130 1 -4 126
Industrial 106 4 8 118
Commercial and residential 83 1 13 97
Transportation 193 16 25 235
Non-energy (mostly agriculture) 108 8 11 127

As Canada creates targets for GHG reductions, policymakers will likely zero in on the three areas – transportation, electricity generation and fossil fuel production – in which the greatest reductions are possible. Together, these activities account for nearly two-thirds of Canada's greenhouse gases. Efficiencies can be found there.

According to Canada's Energy Outlook, the Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) report,[2] NRCan estimates that Canada's GHG emissions will increase by 139 million tonnes between 2004 and 2020, with more than a third of the total coming from petroleum production and refining. Upstream emissions will decline slightly, primarily from gas field depletion and from increasing production of coalbed methane, which requires less processing than conventional natural gas. Meanwhile, emissions from unconventional resources and refining will soar.[3] However, the estimates for carbon emissions differ amongst Environment Canada, World Resources Institute and the International Energy Agency by nearly 50%. The reasons for the differences have not been determined.

Public policy

Kyoto Protocol

Canada is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol. However, the Liberal government that later signed the accord took little action towards meeting Canada's greenhouse gas emission targets. Although Canada committed itself to a 6% reduction below the 1990 levels for the 2008-2012 as a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, the country has not yet implemented a plan to reduce greenhouse gases emissions. Soon after the 2006 federal election, the new minority government of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada could and would not meet Canada's commitments. The House of Commons passed several opposition-sponsored bills calling for government plans for the implementation of emission reduction measures.

Canadian and North American environmental groups feel that Canada lacks credibility on environmental policy and regularly criticizes Canada in international venues. In the last few months of 2009, Canada's attitude was criticized at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) conference,[4] at the Commonwealth summit,[5] and the Copenhagen conference.[6]



The Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF), one of the largest conservation organisations in the country, takes an active stance in lobbying on mitigation of global warming. According to CWF the organisation recognised the need for action in 1977.[7] It had published Checkerspot, a now discontinued biannual climate change magazine.

Climate change by province

While the federal government was slow to develop a monitoring and credible reduction regime, several provincial governments have established substantial programs to reduce emissions on their respective territories. British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have joined the Western Climate Initiative[8], a group of 7 states of the Western United States whose aim is to establish a common framework to establish a carbon credit market. These provinces have also made commitments regarding the reduction and announced concrete steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Reduction programs in other provinces, especially in Alberta, are much less developed, according to the environmental think tank, the Pembina Institute, who stresses that "Alberta's targets are dangerously weak and out of step with the large majority of jurisdictions in the industrialized world."[9]

Canada's two largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec, are wary of federal policies shifting the burden of greenhouse reductions on them in order to give Alberta and Saskatchewan more room to further develop their tar sands reserves, therefore chilling relations between the 13 provinces and territories.[10]


In Alberta there has been a trend of high summer temperatures and low summer precipitation. This has led much of Alberta to face drought conditions.[11] Drought conditions are negatively impacting on the agriculture sector of this province, mainly the cattle ranching area.[12] When there is a drought there is a shortage of feed for cattle (hay, grain). With the shortage on crops ranchers are forced to purchase the feed at the increased prices while they can. For those who cannot afford to pay top money for feed are forced to sell their herds.[13][14]

During the drought of 2002, Ontario had a good season and produced enough crops to send a vast amount of hay to those hit the hardest in Alberta. However this is not something that can be expected every time there is a drought in the prairie provinces.[15] This causes a great deficit in income for many as they are buying heads of cattle for high prices and selling them for very low prices.[16] By looking at historical forecasts, there is a strong indication that there is no true way to estimate or to know the amount of rain to expect for the upcoming growing season. This does not allow for the agricultural sector to plan accordingly.[17]

British Columbia


As Canada's most populated province, Ontario produces more anthropogenic greenhouse gases than any other province. Ontario's Nanticoke coal fired thermal power plant is believed to be the largest single source of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions in North America. The Ontario government has proposed aggressive climate change policies. The province released a climate change action plan in June 2007, pledging a 6% reduction in emissions by 2014, 15% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. To achieve these objectives, the province directed provincially-owned Ontario Power Generation to phase out coal-fired power generation (originally in 2009, then 2011 and now promised by 2014), the legislature has passed a cap-and-trade legislation and the government has announced a C$ 11.5 billion Move Ontario 2020 plan to improve transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas.[18] The Ontario government canceled the installation of emissions scrubbers to reduce the releases of sulphur and nitrogen oxides, mercury and particulates in 2005 since the power plants were to be shut down in 2009 (now potentially in 2014).


Greenhouse gas emissions increased by 3.8% in Quebec between 1990 and 2007, to 85.7 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent. At 11.1 tonnes per capita, Quebec's emissions are well below the Canadian average (22.1 tonnes) and accounted for 11.6% of Canada's total in 2007.[19]

The latest data confirm a strong trend towards declining emissions in the industrial and residential sectors, which decreased by 23.6% and 27.9% respectively and a sharp rise in transportation (+29.5%) and in the tertiary sector (+53.2%). Emissions in the electricity sector have also spiked in 2007, due to the operation of the TransCanada Energy combined cycle gas turbine in Becancour. The generating station, Quebec's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions that year, released 1,687,314 tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2007[20] or 72.1% of all emissions from the sector and 2% of total emissions. The plant was closed in 2008[21] in 2009[22] and in 2010.[23]

Between 1990 — the reference year of the Kyoto Protocol — and 2006, Quebec's population grew by 9.2% and Quebec's GDP of 41.3%. The emission intensity relative to GDP declined from 28.1% during this period, dropping from 4,500 to 3,300 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per million dollars of gross domestic product (GDP).[24]

In May 2009, Quebec became the first juridsiction in the Americas to impose an emissions cap after the Quebec National Assembly passed a bill capping emissions from certain sectors. The move was coordinated with a similar policy in the neighboring province of Ontario and reflects the commitment of both provinces as members of the Western Climate Initiative.[25]

On November 23, 2009, the Quebec government pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% below the 1990 base year level by 2020, a goal similar to that adopted by the European Union. The government intends to achieve its target by promoting public transit, electric vehicles and intermodal freight transport. The plan also calls for the increased use of wood as a building material, energy recovery from biomass, and a land use planning reform.[26] According to simulations conducted with Quebec's Ministry of Finance econometric model, the reduction goal should impact the province's real GDP by 0.16% in 2020.[27]


Greenhouse gases emissions from energy uses in Canada, 1990-2008[28]
in kt CO2 equivalent Change 1990-2008 (%) Share in 2008 (%)
1990 1995 2000 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Electricity and Heat Generation 95,500 101,000 132,000 127,000 125,000 117,000 125,000 119,000 increase 24.6% 16.2%
Fossil Fuel Industries 51,000 54,000 66,000 72,000 66,000 66,000 70,000 68,000 increase 33.3% 9.3%
Mining & Oil and Gas Extraction 6,190 7,840 10,400 14,900 15,600 16,800 23,200 23,900 increase 286.1% 3.3%
Industrial Combustion 55,000 53,300 53,400 51,500 47,600 47,000 49,400 43,400 decrease 21.1% 5.9%
Residential 43,000 45,000 45,000 43,000 42,000 40,000 44,000 43,000 increase 0 % 5.9%
Commercial & Institutional 25,700 28,900 33,100 37,700 36,700 33,400 34,900 34,900 increase 35.8% 4.8%
Transport 145,000 159,000 178,000 188,000 192,000 191,000 199,000 198,000 increase 36.6% 27.0%
Fugitives Sources 42,700 57,000 64,700 65,600 64,700 65,800 64,700 63,800 increase 49.4% 8.7%
Energy Uses 469,000 510,000 587,000 603,000 593,000 581,000 614,000 597,000 increase 27.3% 81.3%
Non-energy Sources 123,000 131,000 130,000 138,000 138,000 137,000 136,000 137,000 increase 11.4% 18.7%
Total 592,000 641,000 717,000 741,000 731,000 718,000 750,000 734,000 increase 24.0% 100.0%
Greenhouse gases emissions by Canadian province/territory, 1990-2008[28]
in kt CO2 equivalent Change 1990-2008 (%) Share in 2008 (%)
1990 1995 2000 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
 Newfoundland and Labrador 9,450 8,250 8,720 10,100 10,100 9,530 10,700 10,100 increase 6.9% 1.4%
 Prince Edward Island 1,980 1,880 2,200 2,290 2,230 2,110 2,070 1,970 decrease 0.5% 0.3%
 Nova Scotia 19,000 18,600 20,900 22,800 21,800 20,100 20,700 20,900 increase 10.0% 2.9%
 New Brunswick 15,900 16,800 19,900 21,300 21,000 18,700 19,100 18,000 increase 13.2% 2.5%
 Quebec 82,800 79,400 82,300 89,100 85,400 83,800 86,800 82,000 decrease 1.0% 11.2%
 Ontario 176,000 174,000 200,000 199,000 200,000 192,000 200,000 190,000 increase 8.0% 26.0%
 Manitoba 18,600 19,800 21,200 21,400 21,000 21,100 21,700 21,900 increase 17.7% 3.0%
 Saskatchewan 43,400 59,100 66,500 71,700 72,300 71,300 74,000 75,000 increase 72.8% 10.3%
 Alberta 171,000 200,000 226,000 234,000 231,000 234,000 246,000 244,000 increase 42.7% 33.4%
 British Columbia 49,300 57,500 61,600 64,600 62,100 61,100 64,500 65,100 increase 32.0% 8.9%
Territories 2,031 2,438 2,054 2,090 1,946 1,784 2,267 2,161 increase 6.4% 0.3%
Canada[note 1] 589,461 635,330 709,320 738,380 728,876 715,524 747,837 731,131 increase 24.0% 100%

See also

Notes and references


  1. ^ Some emissions are only reported at the national level.


  1. ^ "WRI Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (registration required to access data)". 
  2. ^ Canada's Energy Outlook: The Reference Case 2006
  3. ^ Beyond Bali
  4. ^ Cheadle, Bruce (November 14, 2009). "Harper Criticized On Climate Change At APEC Summit". Canadian Press (Toronto: CITY-TV). Retrieved 2009-12-18. 
  5. ^ Carrington, Damian (November 26, 2009). "Scientists target Canada over climate change". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2009-12-18. 
  6. ^ Cryderman, Kelly (December 6, 2009). "Canada has target on its back headed into Copenhagen summit". Canwest News Service (Global TV). Retrieved 2009-12-18. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Western Climate Initiative (2009). "Partner Climate Action Plans". Retrieved 2009-12-16. [dead link]
  9. ^ The Pembina Institute (August 2009) (pdf). Highlights of Provincial Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plans. Ottawa. Retrieved 2009-12-19. 
  10. ^ Woods, Allan (December 15, 2009). "Ontario and Quebec fear chill over climate pact". Toronto Star (Toronto). Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  11. ^ "Alberta Environment: Alberta River Basins Precipitation Maps". Retrieved 2009-11-21. 
  12. ^ "Agriculture Drought Risk Management Plan for Alberta - Strategic Plan".$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/ppe3883. Retrieved 2009-11-21. 
  13. ^ "CBC News - Calgary - Alberta ranchers forced to sell herds". 2009-08-18. Retrieved 2009-11-21. 
  14. ^ "CBC News - Canada - Drought forcing Alberta ranchers to sell off cattle". 2002-07-09. Retrieved 2009-11-21. 
  15. ^ "CBC News - Canada - Ontario hay arrives in drought-stricken Alberta". 2002-08-07. Retrieved 2009-11-21. 
  16. ^ "CBC News - Edmonton - Alberta county declares 'state of agricultural disaster' over drought". 2009-06-17. Retrieved 2009-11-21. 
  17. ^ "The Atlas of Canada - Precipitation". 2004-07-27. Retrieved 2009-11-21. 
  18. ^ Government of Ontario (December 8, 2009). "Our Climate Change Action Plan". Toronto: Ministry of the Environment. Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  19. ^ Environment Canada (April 17, 2009). National Inventory Report Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada 1990–2007. UNFCCC. p. 519. 
  20. ^ Environnement Canada. "Search Facility Data - Results". Monitoring, Accounting and Reporting on Greenhouse Gases. Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  21. ^ Baril, Hélène (December 4, 2007). "Ratés dans la stratégie énergétique du Québec" (in French). La Presse. Retrieved 2009-05-13. [dead link]
  22. ^ Couture, Pierre (July 25, 2008). "Bécancour : Hydro-Québec devra verser près de 200 M$" (in French). Le Soleil. Retrieved 2009-05-13. [dead link]
  23. ^ Couture, Pierre (July 10, 2009). "Hydro-Québec versera 250 millions $ à TransCanada Energy" (in French). Le Soleil. Retrieved 2009-12-19. 
  24. ^ Government of Quebec (November 2008). "Inventaire québécois des émissions de gaz à effet de serre en 2006 et évolution depuis 1990" (in French) (pdf). Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs. p. 5. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  25. ^ Francoeur, Louis-Gilles (May 12, 2009). "Le Québec et l'Ontario tiendront un registre conjoint des émissions de GES" (in French). Le Devoir (Montreal): p. 1. Retrieved 2009-05-12. 
  26. ^ Francoeur, Louis-Gilles (November 24, 2009). "Climat: le Québec vise haut" (in French). Le Devoir (Montreal): p. 1. Retrieved 2009-11-26. .
  27. ^ Government of Quebec (October 2009) (in French) (pdf). Quelle cible de réduction d'émissions de gaz à effet de serre à l'horizon 2020?. Quebec City: Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs du Québec. p. 31. ISBN 978-2-550-57204-6. 
  28. ^ a b Environment Canada (15 April 2010). National Inventory Report Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada 1990–2008 (3 volumes). UNFCCC. 

External links


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