A strong foundation for regional climate action
49.2 million tonnes of carbon were emitted in the GTHA in 2017.
GTHA carbon emissions fell slightly in recent years, by 3.34 per cent in 2016, and 0.04 per cent in 2017. After a century of continually rising emissions, this is a significant accomplishment considering the region’s population grew by nearly a quarter million over this timeframe.
However, if the GTHA is to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, most of the sources of the 49.2 million tonnes, or megatonnes, of carbon emissions must be eliminated. To meet this target, if emissions fell linearly they would need to be reduced by seven per cent per year—four times the pace we have been setting—even as the region’s population continues to grow.
2017 GTHA carbon emissions:49.2 million tonnes
This is equal to41% of Ontario's carbon emissions
and an average of6.9 tonnes of carbon emissions per capita
49.2 megatonnes of carbon emissions represents the GTHA’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions – also known as direct emissions (such as burning gasoline in a vehicle) and indirect emissions from the generation of electricity (such as burning natural gas to generate electricity). The 49.2 megatonnes emitted by the GTHA annually does not account for Scope 3 emissions, which are any other indirect emissions such as the mining and refining of fossil fuels or the emissions from producing imported goods. The region’s Scope 3 emissions are significant, but they are not included in this inventory due to data constraints and methodological complexities. Read about our methodology for more information.
Buildings and Transportation are the GTHA’s Two Largest Sources of Emissions
77% of GTHA carbon emissions are from the buildings and transportation sectors
Buildings and transportation are the largest emitting sectors in every municipality in the GTHA, except Hamilton where industry is the most significant. The emissions from the buildings and transportation sectors are from the use of three fossil fuels; most building sector emissions are from natural gas used for space and water heating, and transportation emissions are from diesel and gasoline.
None of the municipalities in the GTHA function independently. We operate as a region, and our climate policies and programs must reflect that. Because many municipalities have similar emissions profiles, reduction measures could be applied region-wide in many cases, and collaboration on climate plans is needed to identify these opportunities. (Read more about TAF’s work in policy development and partnership brokering.)
Emissions Fell Slightly in Recent Years
Emissions in the GTHA fell 3.3 per cent between 2015 and 2016, then remained flat between 2016 and 2017. These results are despite a population growth of 3.1 per cent (over 200,000 people) over this time, and are supported by the fact that per capita emissions fell by 1.9 per cent between 2016 and 2017. While these reductions represent positive progress, the pace of emissions reductions needs to increase substantially – to an average annual reduction of 8.2 per cent per capita emissions – to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
Transportation emissions are increasing, even on a per capita basis
Transportation emissions increased by 4 per cent between 2015 and 2017. This sector contributes one-third of region-wide emissions, so increases in transportation emissions have a noticeable effect on overall GTHA emissions.
In every GTHA region, transportation emissions increased between 2015 and 2017. Of course, population in every region also increased over this time, but not by enough to explain some of the transportation emissions increases. Per capita transportation emissions also increased in many parts of the GTHA, and one per cent in the region as a whole.
Buildings emissions change significantly from year to year
Buildings are the largest source of emissions in the GTHA, but their contribution to the region’s total emissions varies based on many factors. In 2015, buildings contributed 23.6 MtCO2eq. This number fell to 21.7 MtCO2eq in 2016, and 21.0 MtCO2eq in 2017. Building sector emissions come primarily (94.5%) from natural gas consumed on-site for space and water heating, as well as a small share (5.5%) associated with electricity generated using natural gas. There is significant year-to-year variability in building sector emissions, with similar trends across all GTHA regions (read more about TAF’s work to reduce emissions from the buildings sector).
Natural gas consumption responds to changes in winter weather
Natural gas emissions fell between 2015 and 2016 but increased between 2016 and 2017. About 70 per cent of the natural gas consumed in each GTHA region is used for space heating, so the weather influences consumption of this resource. Normalizing emissions to account for weather illustrates that much of the change in natural gas emissions from year to year was weather related and the changes are not as significant as they first appear. Read about our methodology for more details on the weather normalization.