Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions from human activities have increased for the fifth year in a row, according to a report issued by Environment Canada late on Friday. TheNational Inventory Report 1990-2013 showed that Canadians emitted the equivalent of 726 megatonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide in 2013, up from 715 Mt in 2012. The increase is largely the result of expanded oil and gas production, with Alberta’s tar sands the fastest growing source of emissions over the 2005-2013 period, although this source still emits less than the transport and electricity sectors nationally. Over this same period tar sands emissions climbed 30 Mt to a total of 62 Mt—in essence doubling. Meanwhile, the electricity sector reduced its emissions by 36 Mt to a total of 85 Mt, largely as a result of Ontario closing coal plants. This means that emissions from the tar sands wiped out almost all the gains from Ontario.
Alberta is the country’s biggest emitter, with Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and BC rounding out the top five provinces. Nationally, some 45 percent of emissions come from electricity and heating, 28 percent from transportation, and eight percent from what are known as ‘fugitive emissions’ in the energy sector, or gas leaks and venting. Taken together, 81 percent of the country’s emissions come from energy use, with seven percent from industrial processes such as steel, cement, aluminum and ammonia production, eight percent from agriculture as a result of soil management practices and livestock belching, and three percent from waste, largely methane escaping from landfills.
In total, Canada’s emissions have risen by 18 percent since 1990, and this country remains one of the highest per capita emitters globally. In addition, while Canada’s emissions intensity (GHG per unit GDP) had been declining over last three decades, the decline has stalled over the past three years. In 2010, Ottawa pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 17 percent on 2005 levels by 2020, matching the emissions reduction pledge of the United States. This promise translates to a limit of 622 Mt of greenhouse gases in 2020, or more than 100 Mt below the nation’s current emissions. This steady rise in emissions means that Canada is on course to overshoot its target by a wide margin unless drastic emission cuts are implemented in the next five years.
The Climate Examiner speaks to BC-based Carbon Engineering about the technology, the business and the policies that could make direct air capture, synfuels and carbon sequestration work.