The latest National Inventory Report confirms Canada has bent the curve and is reducing emissions toward achieving the country’s 2030 emissions reduction goal in a growing economy. Reliable emissions inventory tracking is crucial to understanding Canada’s progress and next steps in climate action.

Today, Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, released Canada’s 2024 National Inventory Report, which tracks and reports on the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. This year’s edition provides estimates from 1990 to 2022.

“The hard work of Canadians is paying off. The Government of Canada has invested over $120 billion to support provinces and territories, Indigenous communities, businesses, and Canadians in the pursuit of a net-zero economy,” said Guilbeault.

“Canada’s 2024 National Inventory Report confirms we have bent the curve, and emissions remain on a long-term downward track while we grow a clean, sustainable, and strong economy. Together, we are making steady progress, and it is imperative that we keep up the momentum. We have a responsibility to take climate action for our economy, our families, and our future to build a stronger, healthier, and sustainable country.”

Kew takeaways

The new National Inventory Report data for 2022 shows emissions were significantly lower, by 44 megatonnes, than Canada’s pre-pandemic 2019 levels, which is equivalent to removing more than 13 million gas-powered vehicles from our roads. In fact, 2022 emissions of 708 megatonnes are the lowest they have been in 25 years, with the exception of the COVID‑19 years (2020 and 2021), when the sudden, global economic slowdown caused emissions to drop sharply. Even set against the sharp COVID dip, emissions were up only 9.3 megatonnes from 2021, lower than the 13 megatonnes forecasted by Environment and Climate Change Canada modelling and 14.2 megatonnes forecasted by the Canadian Climate Institute.

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The pandemic rebound is the result of increases in emissions from transportation, buildings, and some subsectors of oil and gas production.

The inventory results confirm that Canada’s economic growth continues to decouple from its greenhouse gas emissions. The emissions intensity of the Canadian economy has declined by 42 percent since 1990 (greenhouse gases per every dollar of gross domestic product).

Before Canada implemented its first major climate plan in 2016, Canada was tracking to increase emissions in 2030 by nine percent above 2005 levels. Today, the country is tracking to surpass its 2026 interim objective to reduce emissions by 20 percent over 2005 levels by 2026 and continues the momentum toward meeting its 2030 target.

This year’s inventory also provides evidence that many parts of the economy are becoming more efficient and greener through the adoption of clean technologies, the switch to cleaner fuels and non-emitting electricity (hydro, wind, solar, nuclear), and structural economic changes as Canadians build a low-carbon economy.

The push for greater energy efficiency continued in the recently released Budget 2024, which commits $800 million to reduce emissions and lower energy bills for renters and homeowners by increasing support for energy-efficient home retrofits, including launching a new Canada Greener Homes Affordability Program.

The Government of Canada expects that in addition to economy-wide pollution pricing and other federal measures, complementary climate actions from the provinces and territories, municipalities, Indigenous peoples, businesses, and individuals—as well as the acceleration of clean technology innovation and adoption—will lead to further emissions reductions this decade. This will help ensure future generations can continue to enjoy a clean, safe, and healthy environment.

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It’s also important to note that 2022 was a record year of population growth for Canada, with over one million new inhabitants, while emissions per capita decreased from 24 tonnes in 2005 to 18 tonnes, which is comparable to the United States.

Noteworthy changes in emissions 

    • Emissions from transport increased by 7.8 megatonnes (4.2 percent), largely due to more travelling.
    • Emissions from commercial, institutional, and residential fuel combustion increased by 3.8 megatonnes (5.3 percent), due to a colder winter.
    • Emissions from agricultural soils increased 1.5 megatonnes (9.0 percent), mainly due to losses of carbon in soils and a rebound in crop production, following drought conditions in the prairies in 2021.
    • Emissions from public electricity and heat production decreased by 4.3 megatonnes (7.0 percent), due to further reductions in coal consumption.
    • Emission increases from the oil and gas sector from 2021–2022 were one megatonne, as companies continue to take action to reduce methane emissions and increase energy efficiency.
    • Emissions from oil and gas fugitive sources decreased by 2.1 megatonnes (2.8 percent), due to decreased venting from equipment in Alberta and Saskatchewan, which is attributed to regulations.

Canadian climate perspectives

“While 2022 emissions are up slightly from the previous year, don’t miss the big picture: national emissions remain 5.9 per cent lower than pre-pandemic in 2019. The economy has grown 3.2 per cent since then, which is clear evidence that Canada continues to decouple emissions from economic growth. Decoupling now needs to accelerate further—more than double—if Canada is to hit its 2030 target,” states Dave Sawyer, principal economist for the Canadian Climate Institute.

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“National emissions are now 7.1 per cent below 2005, the baseline year for Canada’s official target of at least 40 per cent reduction by 2030.

According to Sawyer, NIR is close to the Canadian Climate Institute’s Early Estimate of National Emissions, released last September, which estimated that emissions in 2022 were 6.4 per cent below 2005 levels.

“The latest national inventory is largely positive, but a few sectors do reveal themselves as a drag on progress. Sectors like electricity lead the pack in terms of reducing emissions. But sectors like oil and gas, heavy-duty vehicles, buildings, and agriculture continue to increase emissions, which offset some of the big gains since 2005,” emphasizes Sawyer.

Environment and Climate Change Canada submits the National Inventory Report to the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat every year, as required by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement.

Featured image credit: Getty Images

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