Reducing Emissions

Under Responsible Care®, CIAC member companies are expected to report all substance releases and transfers of environment and health concern — including those below the reporting threshold of Canada's National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI).

Established in 1992, the NERM database is the annual inventory of emissions and transfers by CIAC member companies.

Each year the Association surveys the emissions of chemical substances by the member companies to all environmental media (i.e. air, water, and land) and the off-site transfers of those substances in waste or recyclable materials. While the National Emissions Reduction Masterplan (NERM) is integrated with the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) through the single-window information management (SWIM) system, the NERM database actually pre-dates and was the basis for the NPRI today. It is also more comprehensive than NPRI, containing over 900 substances on its master list, with no reporting thresholds.

To learn more about the 2018 NERM emissions, explore the figures below.

The total emissions, in tonnes, for all reported substances in 2018 from all CIAC members is shown on a logarithmic scale. This includes 253 chemicals, meaning only about a quarter of the ~900 reportable NERM substances are actually emitted by our members. The right side of the figure shows extremely small-scale emissions, whereas chemicals on the left are emitted in larger quantities.

The top ten chemicals emitted by CIAC member companies in 2018 were: carbon dioxide, hydrogen, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, sulphur dioxide, ethylene, methane, other VOCs (i.e. all volatile organic compounds not listed on NPRI Part One), and total particulate matter. Since NERM’s inception, carbon dioxide has been consistently ranked the highest emitted substance. It is important to note that despite the abundance of greenhouse gases and criteria air contaminants on this list, there are also less harmful chemicals, such as hydrogen.

To explore 2004-2018 emission trends for some of the top emitted chemicals in 2018, click on one of the chemicals below:

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The Canadian chemistry industry has made it a priority to reduce emissions of air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, and volatile organic compounds, helping to ensure cleaner air for all Canadians.

However, several studies have presented Canada as an environmental laggard in recent years, ranking it near the bottom of the list of OECD countries. The Fraser Institute points to many flaws in the methodologies behind these studies, as they unfairly represent Canada’s environmental performance in some respects and do not always use the most meaningful and relevant performance measures. The Fraser Institute therefore set out to develop an improved and transparent methodology, allowing them to accurately measure and compare environmental performance among OECD countries.

Their report, Environmental Ranking for Canada and the OECD, ranks 33 high-income countries across two broad objectives: protecting human health and well-being, and protecting ecosystems. Based on their analysis, Canada performs relatively well, obtaining an overall score of 67, which places it 12th out of 33 high-income OECD countries. For air quality, Canada performs very well, ranking highly out of 33 countries based on the two air-quality indicators: average exposure to fine particulate matter (fourth) and fine particulate matter exceedance (first).

Despite Canada's strong environmental performance ranking, there is the issue of “carbon leakage”, which happens when emission-intensive and trade-exposed industries such as chemical manufacturing—facing costly climate polices (greenhouse gas regulations or carbon taxes)—relocate to jurisdictions with less-stringent environmental policies.

Ross McKitrick, senior fellow at the Fraser Institute and co-author of The Impact of the Federal Carbon Tax on the Competitiveness of Canadian Industries states, “the federal carbon tax will likely push investment, economic activity and jobs out of Canada and into other countries, thus increasing emissions abroad”.

To minimize negative impacts on Canadian industries and the environment, it is important for greenhouse gas reductions to be realized with consideration to the competitiveness of emission-intensive and trade-exposed sectors and the global impacts of carbon leakage and transboundary air pollution.

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