Ireland to miss emissions targets without policy shift, EPA report

Published by Niall Sargent on

April 13th 2017

Ireland will fail to meet its upcoming emissions targets if the State continues to rely on current climate policies, a new report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found.

The environmental watchdog said that targets for agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, non-energy intensive industry and waste are unlikely to be met.

They all fall under the non-Emissions Trading Scheme (non-ETS) sector, with a rise in emissions largely owing to the recent upturn in the economy. Ireland is expected to breach its 2016 target, with emissions set to keep rising up to 2030 and beyond.

The report states that Ireland is “unlikely” to meet our 2020 emissions targets set by the European Union. The EPA projects that emissions will only be reduced by four to six per cent on 2005 levels, well below our 20 per cent target.

The brunt of 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 report states that the projected increase is agricultural emissions is largely down to the government’s Food Wise 2025 Strategy.

EPA Director General, Laura Burke, said that the findings show the need for new, innovative measures if we are serious about making the transition to a low carbon economy.

“The EPA’s latest greenhouse gas projections are a disappointing indicator that the current range of policy measures to reduce emissions and to meet compliance obligations are failing in an improving economy,” she said.

“Any new measures to be included in the upcoming and future National Mitigation plans need to be innovative and effective to get Ireland’s emissions back on a sustainable trajectory,” she added.

“This will take planning, investment and time but can be achieved in the overall framework of national, EU and global commitments.”

Responding to the findings, Minister for Climate Action Denis Naughten said that report “paints a stark picture” of the challenge ahead and points to a “deteriorating position” in terms of reaching our targets.

The previous EPA assessment estimated that emissions in 2020 would be between six and eleven per cent below 2005 levels.

The Minister said that the results were “not unexpected” following recent economic growth, arguing that the 2020 target itself was “not consistent with what was achievable on an EU-wide cost-effective basis”.

The Minister said that the options in the draft National Mitigation Plan will have a range of environmental benefits, while also providing a more sustainable economic model for the future.

However, Kate Ruddock, Deputy Director of Friends of the Earth said that the latest EPA figures should, in fact, draw attention to the “complete inadequacy” of the draft climate plan.

She added that the draft plan fails to outline any substantial measures to alter our emissions trajectory to 2020, missing an opportunity to take lasting policy action to decouple resumed economic growth from increasing emissions.

“We hope now the penny will finally drop in Government buildings that the EPA is right when it says we need a transformation,” she added. “Minister Naughten needs to come back with a new plan that delivers it.”

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan TD said that the report “laid bare” government “inaction” on climate change and emissions reduction.  “The fact that will only achieve a 4-6% reduction instead of 20% is a national embarrassment,” he added.

“The worrying thing is that the National Mitigation Plan, which is out for public consultation at the moment, is just more business as usual. We are on a continuous upward trajectory on emissions, when we really need to be going in the opposite direction.”

The Agency’s findings come less than a week after the release of 2016 emissions data for the ETS sector – heavy industry and aircraft emissions – which showed a 5.4% increase from 2015 levels.

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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