Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Increased by 20.9% Since 1990

Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Increased by 20.9% Since 1990

Canada’s Latest Reported Greenhouse Gas Emissions Level: 729 MT in 2018, a 20.9% increase compared to 603 Mt in 1990 (Data source Environment and Climate Change Canada reporting).

On November 19, 2020 Canada moved forward its proposed legislation, Bill C-12, promising both transparency and accountability to get to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Every year, Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Canada Ministry submits a national greenhouse gas emissions (GGE) inventory to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by April 15. Reports address anthropogenic (human-caused) emissions by sources and removals by sinks and annual emissions estimates dating back to 1990. It is noted between 1990 and 2018, emissions increased by 20.9%, or 126 Mt CO2eq. 

Reports indicate that after hovering between 700 and 720 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) in recent years, Canada’s GGEs increased to 729 Mt CO2 eq in 2018. This increase is attributed to higher transportation fuel consumption, winter heating, and oil and gas extraction. Our GGE inventory includes emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, perfluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride. The inventory uses IPCC methodologies consistent for National GGEs Inventories. Canada represented about 1.6% of global GGEs in 2016 but is one of the highest per capita emitters (CAIT Climate Data Explorer, WRI 2017).

The report goes on to say that over the long term, Canada’s economy has grown more rapidly than its GGEs; emissions intensity for the entire economy (GGE per GDP) has declined by 36% since 1990 and 20% since 2005. Emission trends since 2005 remain consistent, with increases in the Oil and Gas, and Transportation sectors offset by decreases in other sectors–notably Electricity and Heavy Industry. This same report estimates that in 2030, Canada’s emissions will be 227 million tonnes, or 19% before 2005 levels.

In 2018 Canada produced 729 Mt, although most recent emissions do not yet reflect the full impact of recent mitigation policies such as carbon pricing, investments in clean technology, and other innovations. In 2018, the Energy sector below emitted 596 Mt of GGEs, or 82%. The remainder generated by the Agriculture and IPPU sectors (about 8% each), with minor contributions from the Waste sector (2%). In 2018, the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector removed 13 Mt of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Between 2005 and 2018, total emissions decreased by 0.4 Mt or 0.1%. Two sources of Energy dominated this trend, decreases of 18 Mt (5%) in Stationary Combustion Sources and 5.4 Mt (9%) in Fugitive Sources. Emissions also decreased by 0.2 Mt (0.4%) in the IPPU sector and 2.2 Mt (11%) in the Waste sector. However, emissions from Transport (also in the Energy sector) increased by 26 Mt (14%) partially offsetting the decreases from the other categories.

Figure ES–2: Breakdown of Canada’s emissions by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sector (2018) 729 Mt

CO2 is the largest contributor to total emissions, accounting for 80%, the majority being from the combustion of fossil fuels. CH4 emissions were largely fugitive emissions from oil and natural gas systems, agriculture, and landfills. N2O emissions mostly arose from agricultural soil management and transport. Synthetic gases (HFCs, PFCs, SF6 and NF3) were less than 2%.



Figure ES–3: Breakdown of Canada’s emissions by greenhouse gas (2018) 729 Mt.

Climate Action Tracker–an independent scientific analysis group–stated that prior to the pandemic, Canada was far from meeting its insufficient NDC under current or planned policies. They expect Canada’s GGEs to fall to 13% in 2020 but given the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, they foresee little support for a green recovery. With estimated emissions projections in the 603-630 Mt carbon dioxide range, Canada will likely miss its 2030 NDC by 15-20%.

Historical greenhouse gas emissions and projections in Canada (2005 to 2030)

The above projection is found in Canada’s Fourth Biennial report on Climate Change submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2019.

In 2016, Canada adopted the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. With over 50 concrete actions and a reporting process, the country seeks to meet its Paris Agreement GGE reduction target of 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. The PCF is referenced in all of Canada’s reporting documents including a yearly synthesis report on its status and implementation.

Activity Rating

Emissions * / 4 stars

Emissions have increased.

Existing Policies *** / 4 stars

Some positive impact has been documented.


Combined Activity Rating **** / 8 stars


The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change


Mail: House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Tel: 1 613 995-1225

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Canada Country Manager Diane Szoller.

Contact at

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