Government of Canada’s greenhouse gas footprint now available as open data

July 18, 2017

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We are excited to be making greenhouse gas (GHG) data sets from the 2010 to 2011 fiscal year to the 2014 to 2015 fiscal year available through the Open Data portal.

Scientific consensus recognizes the link between GHG emissions from human activities and global climate change. Many organizations measure their emissions by developing a GHG inventory (also known as a carbon footprint). Complete, consistent and accurate GHG measurement enables organizations to assess risks and opportunities, create strategies to reduce emissions and track progress in a transparent way.

GHG accounting protocol

GHG accounting is defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which was created in 2001 by the World Resources Institute and is used by countries and companies around the world.

The Centre for Greening Government (formerly the Office of Greening Government Operations) has been collecting GHG information from federal departments since 2010, when a Government of Canada GHG Accounting Protocol was designed. It provides federal government organizations with a standardized approach for measuring and reporting GHG emissions. We are now updating the protocol to reflect the latest internationally accepted GHG reporting and accounting standards.

The current GHG inventory includes direct (scope 1) and indirect (scope 2) emissions from 15 federal organizations that are subject to the GHG reduction goal set out in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. Some direct GHG emissions are produced by fuel combustion in buildings or fleet operations that an organization owns or controls. Other direct emissions (for example, halocarbon releases) come from non-energy sources and are not included in the current GHG inventory.

Indirect GHG emissions (scope 2) include the consumption of purchased energy for electricity, heating and cooling. Other indirect emissions (scope 3) are not included in the current GHG inventory. Significant scope 3 sources from federal operations include business travel, employee commuting, leased buildings and the supply chain of purchased goods. GHG emissions from operations related to national safety and security are not reported.

Calculating emissions

Emissions are calculated based on activity data, combined with appropriate emissions factors. Energy use is activity data that measures the quantity of energy used in units of fuel, electricity, heating or cooling.

The emission factor is the rate at which an activity emits a GHG, for example, tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted per cubic metre of natural gas combusted, or tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed.

A different emission factor is used for each type of activity and for each province or territory, depending on the energy mix.

Tracking progress

  • 89% of the Government of Canada’s GHG emissions come from the energy used for its facilities, including office space, laboratories and warehouses
  • 11% of its emissions come from its fleet of vehicles, including cars, vans, trucks, boats, ships and planes

Overall, GHG emissions decreased by 19% between the 2005 to 2006 fiscal year and the 2014 to 2015. This is an aggregate number, progress differs among individual departments and agencies. The summary of progress to date is shown in the Government of Canada’s GHG reporting webpage.

Emission reductions at facilities resulted mainly from improvements in the GHG intensity of electricity generation with the use of cleaner fuel to generate electricity, also known as the “greening of the grid.” Those improvements contributed to a 14.8% reduction in overall federal emissions. A 4.3% reduction in federal GHG emissions was also achieved through a combination of initiatives, including making buildings more energy-efficient through renovations and equipment retrofits, right-sizing federal fleets, and reducing fleet fuel consumption by purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles. Other factors such as weather (for example, very cold weather means energy use goes up) and increased activities for some departments in priority areas can present challenges to reducing emissions.

What’s next

We have a good picture of the government’s GHG emissions from the 2010 to 2011 fiscal year to the 2014 to 2015 fiscal year. We are currently gathering information for the 2015 to 2016 fiscal year and the 2016 to 2017 fiscal year so that we can share it in winter 2018. As part of the GHG inventory for the 2018 to 2019 fiscal year, we will be adding more departments and agencies to the existing 15. We are also looking at tracking additional sources of GHGs. These could include non-energy GHG emissions such as halocarbon releases and sources such as business travel, employee commuting and leased buildings. When we update our GHG Accounting Protocol, we will also be reporting our emissions reduction due to the purchase of renewable power.

We are happy to have this data out for public use and are interested in learning how it can be used to identify opportunities for reducing GHGs. We welcome your input on how we can improve data quality, on the type of information we collect and report on, and on the expansion of the inventory in the future.

Email us at greening-vert@tbs-sct.gc.ca or follow the conversation on Twitter at #greeninggovernment.


By Nick Xenos, Executive Director, Centre for Greening Government, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

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