Chart of the week: Where do Edmonton's emissions come from?

Chart of the week: Where do Edmonton's emissions come from?

· The Pulse

Edmonton has the highest per capita emissions of any municipality in Canada, according to the University of Alberta.

The city emitted the equivalent of 18 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person in 2020. In comparison, Calgary emitted 14 tonnes, and Vancouver emitted six tonnes in 2019.

This chart shows where all of the greenhouse gases are coming from. The plurality comes from transportation, mainly from burning fossil fuels for vehicles, closely followed by the industrial sector, which includes everything from greenhouse gas waste from manufacturing processes, to electricity for industrial buildings. "Other" emissions include those from agriculture, landfills, and sewage.

Electricity generation as a whole accounts for more of the city's emissions than burning fuel for cars, but this is divided between the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. A paper published by Stantec in 2019 said that electricity accounts for 43% of the city's emissions, mainly due to the fact that Alberta's electricity grid is almost entirely sourced by coal and natural gas — the two most carbon-intensive emitters. The other main source of emissions in these sectors is natural gas burned for heat.

If the City of Edmonton wants to meet its goal of cutting emissions to 3.2 tonnes per person by 2030, and going completely carbon neutral by 2050, it needs to focus on greener electricity and greener transportation.

For transportation, the city's plan to meet its emissions targets was approved by city council on April 21 and includes an expansion of the LRT network, more electric buses, and more infrastructure for personal electric vehicles. While the city's research indicates more mass transportation would significantly lower emissions both directly from per capita fuel consumption, and indirectly by encouraging more density, the impact of electric vehicle usage on its own is diminished because of Alberta's carbon-intensive electricity grid.

However, much of the plan is focused on electricity generation as well. It includes expanding local geothermal and solar power generation, more imports of electricity from less carbon-intensive areas of the country, and city-wide district energy sharing systems, which reduce wasted energy by reusing excess heat.

As part of the plan, the City of Edmonton will also be scaling-up incentives for private citizens and businesses to outfit buildings with solar panels, energy efficient heating systems, and greener building materials.

The plan estimates 28% of the city's total emissions reductions will come from changes to transportation and density, while 36% will come from changes to electricity. Most of the rest will come from energy efficient buildings, carbon capture and offsets.

This chart is part of Taproot's contribution to Covering Climate Now, a global journalism initiative committee to more and better coverage of the defining story of our time.