Large increase in Greenhouse Gas Emissions on the back of economic recovery, EPA finds

Published by Dave Brooks on

20th April, 2016

Cement production, aviation, and greater energy use from Moneypoint power station has led to a 5.5 per cent increase in emissions in one year, the Environmental Protection Agency have found.

Irish sectors participating in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) reported an increase of 5.5% in greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 compared to 2014.

The ETS, which is the largest and longest-running emissions trading scheme in the world and accounts for around 45% of total EU emissions,  showed a fall in overall emissions across the EU of 0.4% over the same period.

The sectors which showed the greatest increase in emissions over the year were the cement sector, which increased by 11% reflecting activity in the construction sector, and power generation, whose increase of 5.3% was largely due to greater use of the coal-fired power station at Moneypoint. Also showing significant increases were large food and drink operators and aviation, with increases of 4.6% and 11% respectively.

With Ireland’s economy showing signs of improvement, the question of whether this can be achieved without concurrent increases in greenhouse gases looms large. Laura Burke, Director General of the EPA said: “The increase in emissions is disappointing and points to the fact that economic growth needs to be decoupled from emissions growth. The increased use of coal for electricity generation in Ireland contrasts sharply with the pledge in the December 2015 White Paper on Energy to reduce energy-related carbon emissions by between 80 and 95 per cent, compared with 1990 levels.”

The ETS is a ‘cap and trade’ scheme, which sets an EU-wide limit on the emissions that can be produced by participating sectors. Allowances for emissions are auctioned, or in some cases other than power generation given for free, and additional allowances must be purchased if the original allocated limit is exceeded. Similarly, spare allowances can be sold to other operators. The system is designed to bring about reductions at least cost, but with carbon trading at a price of €5.67 per tonne last week, there is little incentive for high emitters to change their ways. Ms. Burke said “We need a stronger incentive to move away from carbon intensive fuels like coal in the short term and from fossil fuel use in general in the long term. Reforming the EU ETS to give a stronger carbon price would speed up the decarbonisation needed for a carbon neutral economy. ”

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Dave Brooks

Dave works as Communication Assistant with the Environmental Pillar. His background is in psychology and he has a masters in Environmental Psychology from the University of Surrey.