Oil and Gas Production Becomes Canada’s Largest Source of Greenhouse Gas Emissions


By Justin Bull

April 17, 2014

Environment Canada has found that fossil fuel production has surpassed transportation as the largest contributor to Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Oil and gas production now contributes one-quarter of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report by the agency.

Never before have oil and gas been responsible for such a large share of Canada’s emissions. The report only increases pressure on the Harper government to adopt long-promised regulations for the oil industry. 

The report, available online here, compares Canada's greenhouse gases and sinks between 1990 to 2012. It found that between 2011 and 2012, the most recent year available, emissions dropped by 1 percent, led by reductions in the electricity and manufacturing sectors.

Emissions from transportation peaked in 2005 at 168 megatons of CO2 equivalent, and have held almost steady since. Oil and gas, by contrast, emitted 159 Mt of CO2 in 2005 and have risen to 173 Mt CO2 since.

The rise in emissions will inevitably undermine commitments made by Canada at the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009. At that gathering, Canada agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020. But Environment Canada has said Canada likely won't meet that goal.

Tackling the emissions from the oil and gas sector must become a priority for Canada. Oil executives would point to President Barack Obama’s insistence that the Keystone XL pipeline not increase net emissions. Without a common set of rules and regulations, meeting Obama’s standard will be impossible.

But Canada, and indeed the world, would be better off if the focus was a low-carbon economy, not simply better managing fossil fuels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has once again identified the perils and opportunities of climate change, making the need to think beyond fossil fuels more obvious than ever. Fortunately clean technology – from energy efficiency, to electric vehicles, to renewable sources of power – is still advancing in Canada, despite the leadership vacuum in Ottawa.