Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Canadian emissions story

Earth Hour dipped electricity use in British Columbia by 1.1%. Again, a nice gimmick to raise awareness about energy use, but far far far from what's needed to tackle greenhouse gas emissions in Canada (right)

The Canadian government published a report earlier this year documenting the trends in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990, the first reporting year, up until 2006. The data reveals a lot of interesting and surprising trends and can answer some of the questions about the contribution of individual Canadian provinces raised by my recent post on change in per capita GHG emissions around the world.

Between 1990 and 2006, Alberta passed Ontario as the largest total emitter of greenhouse gases [top chart]. Alberta is responsible for 33% of emissions, despite housing only 11% of the Canadian population. Alberta alone was responsible for just over half of the total increase in GHG emissions between 1990 and 2006 [second chart].

The #2 province Ontario is responsible for 27% of national emissions but has almost four times the population. Therefore the per capita emissions in Ontario are 15 t CO2-eq / person, hardly a lofty goal, still more than three times that of China, but one quarter that of Alberta.

Saskatchewan is fourth in total emissions at 10% of national emissions, only slightly behind Quebec, despite housing only one-seventh of the population of la belle province. Saskatchewan’s carbon-intensive economy has become even more so over the past two decades. Thanks to a growing uranium and potash industries, expansion of oil production and reliance on coal power, the province of only one million people was responsible almost a quarter of the national increase in GHG emissions from 1990 to 2006.

Quebec, on the other hand is Canada’s pocket of Europe in more ways than one. Thanks to a heavy reliance on hydro power, la belle province’s per capita GHG emissions of 10.7 t CO2-eq/person are more in line with Europe than the rest of North America. Lower heating demands and increased reliance on hydro power helped make Quebec the one Canadian province where GHG emissions decreased (by 1%) between 1990 and 2006. Note the word province; this is not to slight the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, where GHG emissions decreased 17% over the same time period.

Per capita emissions [third chart] were relatively steady across much of the country between 1990 and 2006: there was a 12% decrease in Ontario, a 10% decrease in Quebec, and a 7% increase across the Maritimes. The big discrepancy is between Alberta and Saskatchewan. Alberta’s population growth kept pace with the growth in emissions – people came from other provinces to work in the oil sands operations. Saskatchewan, on the other hand, has seen a 67% increase in per capita emissions due to a declining population (this trend began to reverse in the past few years).

The carbon-intense nature of the economies of Alberta and Saskatchewan is best illustrated by a chart of the GHG emissions intensity: the GHG emissions per $ of GDP. This is shown in the final chart to the right (2006 only). In 2006, creating one dollar of GDP in Alberta required over five times the GHG emissions as in Ontario, over six times the GHG emissions as in Quebec. The high emissions intensity of Saskatchewan and Alberta leads to the interesting results that the emissions intensity appears to decrease with population.
There’s likely some economic logic to that pattern: for example, areas of higher populations and large cities are more “efficient” overall, and resource extractive industries tend to be located in areas of lower population.

These are just some of the broad patterns in the GHG data. There is much much more to analyse and discuss.


John Mashey said...

Good material. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Saskatchewan and Alberta need to separate from Canada. We could finally live without having our destiny dictated to us by voters in Ontario and Quebec and we would no longer have to carry the annual multi-billion dollar burden that comes with equalization. We have very little in common with easterners - it's time for us to leave Canada.