Ireland in breach of air pollution ceilings, new EU report reveals

Published by Niall Sargent on

3rd July 2017

Ireland is among 11 EU states to breach air pollution ceilings under new EU Directive due to agricultural and transport emissions, a new European Environment Agency (EEA) report reveals.

The information is the first set of data to be submitted by Member States under the new EU National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive to restrict emissions for five key air pollutants including nitrogen oxides (NOx), ammonia (NH3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

Ireland is among six Member States to have persistently exceeded their emission ceilings for NOx between 2010 and 2015 based on the latest air pollutant emissions inventory data reported by Member States in February 2017.

Ireland also had the highest exceedance in 2015 for non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) in 2015  – 84 per cent above the ceiling level. According to the report, this is due to the recent addition of NMVOC emissions from agriculture into Ireland’s emission inventory.

According to an April 2017 report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the brunt of Ireland’s emissions come from the agricultural and transport sectors. Combined, they are projected to account for three-quarters of Ireland’s total non-ETS emissions in 2020.

The new Directive also allows Member States to ‘adjust’ downwards their reported emissions for compliance assessment with the national ceilings if excess levels are caused by countries having applied improved emission inventory methods.

Ireland is one of nine states to submit an adjustment application in 2017, which, if approved, would class Ireland below all of own respective ceilings, the EEA report states.

Poor air quality is the single largest environmental health risk in Europe, contributing to heart diseases, stroke, respiratory diseases and lung cancer. It is estimated that 1,200 people die prematurely from exposure to poor air quality in Ireland every year.

The EEA report also provides an assessment of the projected emissions reported for 2020 and 2030 in relation to the Member States’ reduction commitments for those years set in the new NEC Directive.

Projected emissions reported by 23 Member States show that 18 do not consider themselves on track towards meeting their reduction commitments set for 2020, the report finds.

The EPA recently found that Ireland will fail to meet its upcoming emissions targets if the State continues to rely on current climate policies.

The environmental watchdog stated that Ireland is “unlikely” to meet our 2020 emissions targets set by the European Union, with emissions set to keep rising up to 2030 and beyond.

The EPA report projected that emissions will only be reduced by four to six per cent below 2005 levels, well below our 20 per cent target.

The EEA is an agency of the European Union tasked with providing independent information on the environment to policymakers and the general public.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London