Right now, if businesses or environmental officials need to estimate the impact of different greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction measures in one country or region of North America compared to another, they face multiple GHG reporting regimes with varying levels of detail and complexity.
In response, Canada, Mexico and the United States are seeking to improve the comparability of emissions data in North America to advance domestic carbon emissions objectives, standards, regulations and policies by 2015, as part of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) Council's strategic priorities.
In North America, trinational climate policy cooperation to reduce such emissions would ultimately depend upon comparable GHG emissions data and information from each country.
Working through the CEC, the countries have taken an important first step in looking at the state of comparability of emissions data at national and subnational levels with the completion of a background report: Assessment of the Comparability of Greenhouse Gas and Black Carbon Emissions Inventories in North America.
The report documents how, at present, North America features multiple GHG-reporting systems, both voluntary and mandatory, at national and subnational levels, and with varying degrees of detail and complexity. GHG reporting requirements for industrial sources, including sector coverage, vary by jurisdiction. The report also looks at black carbon, which is a short-lived climate forcer, an airborne fine aerosol particle that doesn't last long in the atmosphere but is a potent source of human-induced climate change. Combustion processes are a primary source of black carbon emissions.
In the next few weeks, a technical group made up of representatives of the three countries will use the results from this CEC report when they meet to draw up recommendations to North America's three environment ministers.
Facts and figures from the report include:
- At least five Canadian provinces or territories, 31 states in the United States and ten states in Mexico have completed GHG inventories independent of their respective national inventories (page 25).
- Energy represents the largest source category of GHG emissions for each country (page 4).
- The US EPA has developed a framework for producing a black carbon inventory, including emission factors for specific sources. Some of these factors are already being used by the Canadian and Mexican governments. Combustion of fossil fuel, wood-burning stoves, forest fires and prescribed burning are amongst the sources of black carbon (for black carbon sources, see Table 3 on page 13).
- Canada and the United States produce more detailed GHG reports than Mexico, due to Mexico's status as a non-Annex I country, as per the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) guidelines (page 8).
- A number of differences were identified for specific emission sectors and sources among the US, Canadian, and Mexican GHG inventories. For example, US emissions from waste incineration are reported under the Energy sector, while in Canada and Mexico, waste incineration is included under the Waste sector (page 19).
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