Alberta has highest greenhouse gas emissions in Canada

And their emissions increased 17.4% between 2009 and 2019.

Last month, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released their latest report on climate change.

I’m not going to discuss its findings here, as there are plenty of media outlets who have. But it did make me wonder about where Canada and Alberta sit in all this.

I decided to do some searching to see what I could find on greenhouse gas emissions—which the report claims is driving observed climate warming—in Canada, and I stumbled upon the National inventory report.

I chose to look at the data for each province and territory between the years 2009 and 2019. I figured that should give me a pretty decent sample to see any recent trends. (They didn’t have 2020 data available yet.)

First, let’s look at 2019 data:

British Columbia66.00
Nova Scotia16.00
New Brunswick12.00
Newfoundland & Labrador11.00
Prince Edward Island1.80
Northwest Territories1.40
Numbers are in megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents

It’s pretty obvious that Alberta is at the top of the list, with 276 megatonnes in carbon dioxide equivalents throughout 2019. That’s 69.3% higher than Ontario, which was in second place at 163 megatonnes.

Those two provinces were the only ones above the 100 megatonne mark.

And while Alberta’s collective emissions seems a lot, keep in mind that the rest of Canada put together contributes twice as much as Alberta does on its own.

As you can see here, Alberta accounts for a bit more than a third of the country’s emissions, with Ontario making up about 22%.

That being said, Alberta contains only 11.6% of the country’s population, which means those who live here carry a larger burden of the nation’s emissions than those who live in other provinces or the territories.

But the fact that Alberta’s share of emissions is 3 times as high as its share of the population tells you that this pollution can’t be just the result of consumer behaviour.

Here’s how the 2019 numbers compare to a decade previously:

British Columbia60.7066.005.308.7%
Nova Scotia21.0016.00-5.00-23.8%
New Brunswick18.7012.00-6.70-35.8%
Newfoundland & Labrador10.2011.000.807.8%
Prince Edward Island1.981.80-0.18-9.1%
Northwest Territories1.241.400.1612.9%

If we check out the percentage change, the Yukon and Nunavut win by a landslide, with the Yukon nearly doubling their emission. That being said, both of those territories, even with the increases, still measure their emissions in kilotonnes—everyone else does it megatonnes.

Measure by percentage change, Alberta comes in third place. And while that doesn’t seem as bad as first place, it’s still higher than 10 other jurisdictions.

Not only that but Alberta increased its emissions by 41 megatonnes. Of the 8 provinces that increase emissions over this decade, Alberta was the only one to increase it in double-digit megatonnes. And Alberta’s increase is more than the total emissions in 2019 for 8 provinces and territories.

Here’s the share of the national emissions for each province:

A decade earlier, Alberta was responsible for 33.7% of Canada’s emissions. By 2019, it had jumped to 37.8%, as I pointed out earlier.

The four Western provinces were the only jurisdictions to increase their share of the nation’s emissions:

British Columbia8.7%9.0%

Not only that, but their share increased more than any of the others, with everyone else bumping up less than 1 percentage point, while Alberta went up 4 points.

Here are the other jurisdictions:

New Brunswick2.7%1.6%
Northwest Territories0.2%0.2%

Of those who decreased their emissions share, Ontario’s was the largest drop, decreasing by more than 2 percentage points.

Now, let’s look at how the provinces performed each year since 2009.

And sure enough, we see Ontario’s significant decline in emissions and Alberta’s significant increase. Everyone else’s decrease or increase are so small compared to them that they appear to be unchanged.

It looks like Alberta’s emissions decreased during the 2015–2016 recession, but they’ve started to recover since then; although they are still under what they were in 2014.

If Canada wants to get to net zero in the next 29 years, they’ll have to do something about Alberta.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

2 replies on “Alberta has highest greenhouse gas emissions in Canada”

Leave it to Kim Siever to find government data that most of us would not be able to find. I’d never heard of the “National inventory report”. Getting to “net-zero” without ruining the Alberta economy will not be an easy task. Maybe, but I’m not optimistic any Provincial government has any idea how to accomplish that. Chomsky has a new book, “The Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal: The Political Economy of Saving the Planet” written with University of Massachusetts economics professor Robert Pollin which discusses practical ideas on this matter.
In related news here is an article detailing how Norway expects to sell their last new gas/diesel vehicle by April of 2022. After that, electric cars will account for 100% of new car sales (open the article in Chrome and select “English” from the pop-up at the top of the page … unless you can read Norwegian).

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