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Study: Greenhouse gas emissions from private vehicles

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1990 to 2007 

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by private motor vehicles were almost one-third higher in 2007 than they were in the early 1990s. On a per capita basis, high-income households had the highest emissions in 2007.

GHG emissions produced by private vehicles amounted to 70 774 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2007. This was 3% higher than the level in 2006 and 35% higher than the level in 1990.

Of the three greenhouse gases emitted by vehicles, carbon dioxide accounted for 98%, while methane and nitrous oxide accounted for the remaining 2%.

The increase in emission levels in 2007 was in line with significant increases in household spending on motor vehicles and fuels. This resulted in an increase of 466,472 new motor vehicles on the road compared with the year before.

Over half of this additional fleet consisted of vehicles, such as sport utility vehicles (SUVs), vans and straight trucks. During 2007, SUVs were the only vehicle that recorded a year-over-year increase in the number of kilometres travelled.

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Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Study: Greenhouse gas emissions from private vehicles

Related subjects

1990 to 2007 

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by private motor vehicles were almost one-third higher in 2007 than they were in the early 1990s. On a per capita basis, high-income households had the highest emissions in 2007.

GHG emissions produced by private vehicles amounted to 70 774 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2007. This was 3% higher than the level in 2006 and 35% higher than the level in 1990.

Of the three greenhouse gases emitted by vehicles, carbon dioxide accounted for 98%, while methane and nitrous oxide accounted for the remaining 2%.

The increase in emission levels in 2007 was in line with significant increases in household spending on motor vehicles and fuels. This resulted in an increase of 466,472 new motor vehicles on the road compared with the year before.

Over half of this additional fleet consisted of vehicles, such as sport utility vehicles (SUVs), vans and straight trucks. During 2007, SUVs were the only vehicle that recorded a year-over-year increase in the number of kilometres travelled.

Every dollar of personal spending on motor fuels generated 3.2 kg of vehicle emissions in 2007. It remained unchanged from 2006.

On a per capita basis, GHG emissions from private vehicles reached an average of 2 149 kg in 2007. This was 2% higher than the level in 2006 and 14% higher than the 1990 level of 1 887 kg per capita.

Between 1990 and 2007, per capita vehicle emissions increased at almost twice the growth rate of the population.

Households with an annual income of $100,000 or more had the highest per capita emissions in 2007. They generated 5 737 kg of greenhouse gases per person. People in this income group were more likely to own vehicles that use more fuel per kilometre travelled, such as trucks and SUVs.

Among census metropolitan areas, Kingston recorded the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases, at 3 035 kg per person. Greater Sudbury followed, at 2 844 kg.

Montréal had the lowest level of per capita emissions (1 219 kg), mostly due to its type of fleet composition, both in terms of vehicle model year and body type. This led to the use of less fuel per kilometre travelled, and, consequently, to a lower level of emissions per capita.

Canada's transportation sector is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. According to Environment Canada, transportation was responsible for 27% of Canada's total GHG emissions in 2007. Within the transportation sector, road transportation accounted for 69% of GHG emissions.

Note: This study provides estimates of the level of greenhouse gas emissions arising from households' private vehicle operation for the period 1990 to 2007. One of the main data sources used for the study was the Canadian Vehicles Survey, which was expanded following consultations with the survey's funding partners, Transport Canada and Natural Resources Canada. The expansion allowed for a finer level of geographic analysis of the results. These were used in this study to produce the first survey-based vehicle emission estimates for the provinces and census metropolitan areas. Due to lack of data, the three territories were only included in the national emissions results for 1990 to 2007. Therefore, the emission estimates presented in the study by income group, province, or census metropolitan area do not include the three territories.

The study Greenhouse gas emissions from private vehicles is included in the Internet edition of the Environment Accounts and Statistics Analytical and Technical Paper Series, no. 12 (16-001-M2010012, free), available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

To order data, to obtain more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact the information officer (613-951-0297; environ@statcan.gc.ca), Environment Accounts and Statistics Division.