Latest EPA figures show continued increase in emissions levels

Published by Niall Sargent on

November 27th, 2017

Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 3.5 per cent in 2016 with significant increases observed in agriculture, transport, and energy, new data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows.

The environmental watchdog’s Provisional Greenhouse Gas Emissions report estimates that total national greenhouse gas emissions were over 61Mt CO2 eq in 2016, returning to levels not seen since 2009.

According to the report, national emissions have now increased by over seven per cent in just two years, indicating that Ireland has not decoupled emissions from economic growth.

The report finds that Ireland’s goal of decarbonisation by 2050 will be difficult to achieve as emissions increase in the three main contributing sectors – agriculture, transport, and energy.

In 2016, there was a 2.7 per cent in emissions from agriculture, a 3.7 per cent increase in the transport sector and a 6.1 per cent increase in emissions from the energy industry.

cattle cow dairy

holstein-cattle Photo: CallyL


Agriculture remains the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland, accounting for 32 per cent of Ireland’s overall emissions.

The most significant driver for agricultural emissions is higher dairy cow numbers which reflect national plans to expand milk production under Food Wise 2025 targets, the report states.

Dairy cow numbers have increased by 22 per cent in the last four years with greenhouse gas emissions up 8 per cent over that period, the report states.

According to Dr Eimear Cotter, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability, the growth in the dairy sector  “points to very significant risks in relation to meeting our decarbonisation objectives.”

“Ireland must optimise agricultural production to ensure long-term environmental integrity and sustainability,” she added.

The estimates of agricultural emissions for 1990 to 2015 was written down significantly by 3.6 per cent (0.71 Mt CO2 eq) based on research from the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Initiative for Ireland (AGRI-I).

This research investigated the nitrous oxide emission factors for nitrogen fertiliser use and nitrous oxide emission factors for dung and urine deposited by grazing cattle on soils.

Launched in January 2012, AGRI-I is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Research Stimulus Fund.

poor air quality

Transport and Energy

Transport emissions are up 13 per cent over the last four years, primarily driven by economic and employment growth. There is no sign of abatement in the short term, the report states.

The increase in energy emissions is primarily due to an increase in the demand for electricity and more electricity generation from gas.

This is the second year in a row that an increase in the emissions intensity of electricity generation was noted by the EPA.

Dr Cotter said that we must also see progress in shifting away from fossils fuels in the transport and energy sectors.

“We need to adopt a much greater sense of urgency about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels while radically improving energy efficiency.

EPA emissions report

Eamon Ryan said that the Government trying to dodge “fair targets for 2030” Photo: Green Party

Expert Reaction

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan said the figures released by the EPA showed the “impossible contradiction” in the government’s position towards a greener Ireland.

“We cannot sign up to a green future on the international stage and keep burning everything here at home”, the Green Party Leader said.

Mr Ryan added that the government has continually avoided transitional actions towards a low carbon economy and focused “to our national embarrassment” their efforts on trying to dodge “fair targets for 2030”.

Leading climate expert Professor John Sweeney said that the findings in today’s report are not surprising and simply “confirm the complete failure of Ireland’s climate change policies”.

“It is now clear that taking action on climate change, whatever the noble political rhetoric, is not as great a political priority as agricultural intensification, burning our peat bogs or increasing our dependence on car-dependent activities,” he added.

“The taxpayer will ultimately foot the bill for weak political leadership and an unwillingness to confront the powerful interest groups who are damaging Ireland’s international reputation and compromising our children’s future.”

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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