This article was published by the National Energy Board on June 19, 2019.
The relationship between a populations’ energy use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and economic growth can be examined through four factors of what is called “the Kaya identity”:Footnote1
- Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita
- Energy intensity (energy consumed per $ of GDP)
- GHG emissions per energy useFootnote2
The Kaya identity for Canada shows that, as our economy and population has grown, Canada’s energy intensity has steadily decreased.
While Canada has experienced significant economic growth from energy-intensive industries such as the oil sands, GDP growth from less energy-intensive sectors, such as commercial and public buildings, was stronger.
In addition to this structural shift in the Canadian economy, energy efficiency has improved. Canada’s energy intensity was 40 per cent lower in 2017 than in 1981, and 30 per cent lower than in 1990.
The NEB’s report Canada’s Energy Transition: Historical and Future Changes to Energy Systems also has information about the evolution of energy use and emissions.
Figure 1: Index of Economy, Energy Use, and Emissions in Canada (1981 – 2017)
Emissions per energy use represents the carbon intensity of Canada’s fuel mix. As Canada shifts to less carbon-intensive sources of energy, including non-emitting sources, emissions per energy use will continue to decline.
Canada’s emissions per energy use was 14 per cent lower in 2017 than in 1990. The majority of energy consumed by Canadians is from fossil fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and natural gas. In some provinces, coal is also used for electricity generation.
When all four Kaya identity factors are multiplied, they equal total GHG emissions. In 2017, Canada’s GHG emissions were 716 megatonnes (MT) of carbon dioxide equivalent, a net decrease of 15 MT or 2.0 per cent from 2005 emissions.Footnote3 Canada’s commitment under the Paris Agreement involves a 30 per cent reduction of its GHG emissions from 2005 levels.
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