Earth Matters

Energy & GHG Reporting – The Big Picture

Sunnybrook’s “2011 Energy and Greenhouse Gas Report” shows that our CO2 emissions from energy used is 26,622 tonnes of CO2 – Why measure emissions and how do we put these numbers into context?
Let’s zoom out and start by looking at the whole planet. In May of this year the concentration of CO2 (the most common greenhouse gas) in our atmosphere reached 400ppm. Prior to the post industrial era, concentration levels were steadily below 280ppm and according to Scientific American the last time concentration levels were as high as 400ppm was thought to be over 2.5 million years ago before humans evolved. The graph below shows the global CO2 concentrations for the last 800 thousand years.
CO2 emissions data
Source: Scientific American
This sobering milestone reminds us that the race is on for the world to curb and reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions before the atmospheric concentrations get “too high”, an unknown threshold which is still highly debated. Some predictions even suggest we’re already too high as atmospheric concentrations can take hundreds of years to be decreased due to the long life spans of GHGs in the atmosphere.

You can read more about CO2 concentrations in atmosphere:

So you may be wondering how much does Canada contribute to our global greenhouse gas emissions? Well below is a graph from a report on the trends in global CO2 emissions which shows Canada is one of the top emitters, at 556 million tonnes of CO2 in 2011.

CO2 emissions by country

CO2 emissions by country

Source: PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

From this report it is clear that Canada has a significant impact on the world’s greenhouse gas levels and that we will need to play a major role in reducing global emissions. In fact, when you look at CO2 emissions per capita Canada ranks 4th highest showing that there are many countries with larger populations than ours who are emitting less.

You can read more about “Global Trends in CO2 Emissions” here:

Now let’s consider why Canada is emitting this much CO2? The following graphs from “Canada’s 2011 Greenhouse Gas Inventory” report illustrate that 81% of Canada’s GHG emissions are resulting from the energy sector. And that Ontario and Alberta contributed 59% of the total GHG emissions in 2011. While Ontario, with it’s large manufacturing base started off as the largest-emitting province in 1990, it has been surpassed by Alberta in recent years.

Source: Environment Canada
Source: Environment Canada

Read “Canada’s 2011 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report” here:

So we know that energy use in Ontario has a major impact on Canada’s total emissions. The following graph from a ministry of energy report titled “Reviewing Ontario’s Long Term Energy Plan” shows the breakdown of the province’s GHG emissions by sector. The transportation and industry sectors contribute more than half of the emissions but the commercial and institutional buildings sector (C&I) still accounts for 6.9% of the province’s GHG emissions approximately 11 million tonnes.

emissions by sector
Source: Ministry of Energy
Read “Reviewing Ontario’s Long Term Energy Plan” here:

The Green Energy Act was introduced into Ontario legislature in 2009 to encourage energy conservation, renewable energy production, an to promote a green economy. In accordance with Ontario Regulation 397/11 of the Green Energy Act, all public agencies including hospitals are required to report their annual energy consumption and corresponding greenhouse gas emissions to the Ministry of Energy.

Sunnybrook’s 2011 Energy and Greenhouse Gas Report is available online!

Sunnybrook reported a total 26,622 tonnes of CO2 resulting from energy used.

So let’s consider how this compares within the commercial and institutional sector. Since energy use is the main source of CO2 emissions for the C&I sector we can compare performance based on energy used by different building types.  The following charts from the “Commercial and Institutional Consumption of Energy Survey” illustrate the national averages for energy consumption and energy intensity of building types within the C&I sector.

Source: Natural Resources Canada
Source: Natural Resources Canada
Read the “Commercial and Institutional Consumption of Energy Survey Report”:

According to the energy survey, Healthcare buildings make up 10% of the energy used by the C&I sector with hospitals being one of the most energy intensive building types using on average 2.83 GJ of energy per square meter. The Sunnybrook emissions report shows that our campuses had energy intensities below the national average as follows:

Bayview Campus 2.4 GJ/m2
Holland Campus 2.63 GJ/m2
St. John’s Campus 1.83 GJ/m2

Most importantly, there is room for improvement and Sunnybrook is currently developing an Energy Conservation and Demand Management Plan to further improve our energy performance. The Ontario Green Energy Act requires that all public agencies update these Energy Conservation and Demand Management Plans every five years.

Reducing global greenhouse gas emissions is a huge global challenge and it’s sometimes hard to see how our behaviours can make a difference. I hope all these graphs and numbers have helped to paint a bigger picture:

  • Energy use at Sunnybrook and other healthcare buildings account for 10% of the energy used in the commercial and institutional buildings sector in Canada
  • The C&I sector in Ontario accounts for 7% of the province’s GHG emissions
  • Ontario accounts for 24% of the Country’s GHG emissions
  • Canada  is one of the top 10 largest emitters, accounting for 1.6% of the total global CO2 emissions

About the author

Laura Berndt

Laura Berndt (Hough) is the Manager of Energy & Sustainability in Plant Operations at Sunnybrook.


  • So how is Sunnybrook doing compared to previous years, compared to other hospitals? What are we doing to reduce our Co2 output?

  • Great questions. By requiring everyone to report their emissions annually, the Green Energy Act is encouraging these types of comparisons. 2011 was the first reporting year, so going forward Sunnybrook will be able to track our progress. Currently we are aiming to reduce our CO2 output through reducing energy use. Projects currently being investigated include lighting retrofits, optimizing our cooling systems, and expansion of our electrical metering and monitoring systems. Everyone can help by managing their energy use for lighting, office equipment and air conditioning. See our summer energy savings program on Sunnynet