Where Do Non-Fuel Emissions Come From?

Duncan Cameron’s comment about the role of agriculture in climate change prompted me to take a closer look at greenhouse-gas emissions from sources other than burning fossil fuels.

The final column of the following table is a sectoral breakdown of row 8 from yesterday’s table. All of these emissions are exempt from the Liberal Green Shift.


 Fuel Emissions

 Other Emissions

 Crop and Animal Production



 Oil and Gas Extraction






 Petroleum and Coal Refining



 Chemical Manufacturing



 Cement/Mineral Manufacturing



 Primary Metal Manufacturing



 Other Business Activity



 Non-Business Activity







Duncan is correct that tiling the soil and raising livestock were the single largest source of non-fuel emissions. However, fugitive emissions from oil and gas extraction (venting, flaring, etc.) were almost as large in 2003 and may have grown faster since then. The rest came from other industrial processes.

It may not be practical to cap or tax diffuse agricultural emissions. However, large-scale livestock facilities could be viable candidates for carbon-pricing.

It is unfortunate that the Liberal plan lets around one-third of the oil industry’s emissions off the hook. I suppose Jeffrey Simpson is correct that oil producers should support the Liberal version of a carbon tax.

Either a tax or a cap could be designed to apply to either fuel input or emissions output. The Liberal focus on fuel input undoubtedly simplifies administration, but at the cost of completely ignoring non-fuel emissions. Although these emissions account for only about one-fifth of Canada’s total, they are the ones that would be most sensitive to carbon-pricing.

Fuel prices have already increased substantially. Raising these prices a bit more with a carbon tax may not significantly affect consumption, as the Liberals implicitly acknowledge. However, businesses currently pay nothing at all for non-fuel emissions. Putting a price on these emissions could dramatically change business behaviour.

To the extent that there is any low-hanging fruit for climate-change policy, it is among emissions from sources other than burning fossil fuels. By ignoring these sources, the Green Shift misses the emissions that would be most responsive to an emissions tax.


  • Thanks for the sectoral breakdown Erin. I would like to see a breakdown of agriculture between crop and livestock as well. I suspect livestock is the main source of GHG within agriculture, but do not know this.
    Global warming is an international emergency requiring decisive action. So far, apart from Stern, we have not had the analysis we need to support political leadership. Dion is being led around by business friendly think tankers.
    I agree with Paul T on the need for sustained analysis, perhaps centred at CCPA. Thanks for getting the ball rolling here.

  • Erin,

    I read recently that the largest part of getting food to the table in terms of GHG emissions was not in the production of the food (which is what is above) but the transportation from the farm to processing plants then to retail outlets then to home. This is from Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegatable Miracle and she claims that 80% of emissions are this latter source.

    So from a climate change perspective it is way better to eat locally produced non-organic food than imported organic. Though ideally, both. I’m betting the large amount of non-fuel emissions in ag is due to fossil fuel based fertilizers and all that, so clearly we need to cut that down.

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