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Greenhouse gas emissions trending upwards in Canada

·3 min read

The latest report on Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions is out, and the bad news is in: emissions continue to trend upward.

The 2021 National Inventory Report unveils in 2019, Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions grew year-over-year by approximately one megatonne of carbon dioxide equivalent, bringing the country’s annual total to 730 Mt.

Canada’s oil and gas sector, followed by transportation, are the two areas that drove the largest rise in emissions, while those increases were somewhat offset by declines in other sectors (notably electricity and heavy industry).

The federal government, in the report, suggests there are some successes to be celebrated.

The first being that prior to the implementation of the Liberals’ 2017 climate strategy, 2019’s emissions were projected to be 764 Mt.

“Emissions are still increasing, despite a lot of actions that have driven them down below where they would otherwise be. But that’s a story that gets harder and harder to explain every year,” said Andrew Leach, an energy economist and associate professor at the University of Alberta.

The other success the federal government has put forward is GDP in Canada is growing at a faster rate than emissions.

“As a result, the emissions intensity for the entire economy has declined by 37 per cent since 1990, and by 23 per cent since 2005,” the report reads.

The transportation sector accounted for a quarter of Canadian emissions in 2019. The majority of emissions from the transportation sector are related to road transportation, both for personal and commercial purposes.

Canada is reporting more cars and trucks on the road — a staggering increase of 42 per cent since 2005.

While fewer kilometres are being driven per vehicle, the total number of kilometres driven continues to rise. The report says more diesel fuel and gasoline was purchased at the pump in 2019. The emissions increases are greater than the offsetting progress made by efficiency improvements in vehicles.

Agricultural emissions remain flat, but emissions reductions are being slowed by the continued increase in the amount of nitrogen fertilizer being applied to crops. The amount of nitrogen fertilizer use in Canada has increased by 71 per cent since 2005.

Canada has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent over 2005 levels by 2030.

However, when compared with 2005 levels, only six provinces and territories have managed to lower emissions in that time, including Ontario and Quebec.

Manitoba and Saskatchewan have experienced an increase of 10 per cent since 2005, Alberta was up 17 per cent, and Nunavut and Yukon in excess of 20 per cent.

Manitoba Minister of Conservation and Climate Sarah Guillemard was happy to see some moderate year-over-year declines in the province’s emissions, despite the rise seen since 2005.

“While I am pleased to see year-over-year reductions for the 2018-19 period, I will continue to pursue further initiatives to reduce carbon emissions in Manitoba into the future,” Guillemard said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

The transportation and agricultural sectors remain the largest contributors to emissions in the province.

“All emissions matter the same, right? One tonne in Manitoba is the same as one tonne in Alberta. So, I think from a national perspective, if we can find opportunities to reduce emissions cheaply — wherever we can find them — it lets us keep the high-value emissions,” Leach said.

The next annual report will detail how COVID-19 impacted the country’s emissions.

Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press