13 April 2021
Power generation and industrial emissions dropped by 6.4 per cent in 2020, according to new analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The drop brought the sector’s emissions to their lowest level since the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was introduced in 2005.
The figure however is below the bloc’s average, which came in between approximately 11 to 12 per cent.
The EPA attributed the decrease to lower production in some industrial sectors during the pandemic and to the strong presence of wind energy generation in 2020.
The reduced use of fossil fuels in our energy mix, such as peat, also played a role in the decline.
However, emissions from the ESB coal-fired plant at Moneypoint increased by over a quarter, the EPA found, mainly due to increased demand for balance on the National Grid.
Aviation emissions from flights within the European Economic Area (EEA) plummeted by 63 per cent compared to 2019 as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
EPA Senior Manager Dr Maria Martin welcomed the overall decrease, but noted that “there are, nevertheless, many companies in the industrial sectors, such as dairy processing and pharmachem, where emissions are increasing year on year.”
The dairy processing industry saw its emissions increase by 4 per cent in 2020, while pharmchem industries’ emissions rose by almost 11 per cent.
2020 emissions projections
Earlier this year, the EPA released their early estimates for 2020 greenhouse gas emissions and projected that emissions would drop by 6 per cent overall.
The reduction is comparable to the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, where emissions fell by 8.4 per cent in 2009.
However, despite these anticipated reductions, Ireland remains well-off course to meeting its 2020 energy and climate targets.
To meet last year’s goal, emissions needed to fall by 20 per cent compared to 2005 levels. Ireland is projected to be off this target by 8 per cent, as its 2020 emissions reduction is expected to be just 12 per cent below 2005 levels.
Transport emissions fell sharply by 17 per cent last year and residential emissions rose by 9 per cent.
Emissions from agriculture remained largely the same for 2020 as they were in 2019, up slightly by 0.4 per cent.
Provisional data provided by the EPA shows that the cattle population increased by 1.5 per cent between June 2019 and June 2020, accompanied by a 4.2 per cent increase in the number of dairy cows.
From 2014 to 2019 dairy cow numbers increased by almost a quarter and milk production rose by 41 per cent.
The EPA has previously cited the Food Wise 2025 strategy and the removal of dairy quotas in 2015 as key factors in the industry’s expansion.