Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that greenhouse gas emissions in 2016 were 3.5 percent higher than in 2015.

A report by the EPA shows that Ireland is one of four countries in Europe in which greenhouse gas emissions are still above 1990 levels.

The report states that in the last two years greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 7.3 percent. The EPA attributed this increase to economic and employment growth, particularly in the energy industries, agriculture and transport sectors.

Agriculture is the single largest contributor to overall emissions at 32 percent of the total. Emissions in this sector grew by 2.7 percent in 2016, with the main reason for this being higher dairy cow numbers (6.2 percent increase).

The transport sector has shown an increase of 3.7 percent, with 2016 being the fourth consecutive year that emissions have increased in this sector.

Provisional Greenhouse Gas emissions in Ireland for 2015 and 2016. Source: EPA.

Greenhouse gas emissions in the energy industries sector has shown an increase of 6.1 percent between 2015 and 2016. The EPA said that this increase is due to natural gas use for electricity generation increasing by 27.7 percent and a reduction in electricity generated from wind and hydro renewables.

The figures in the report show that Ireland was in compliance with its 2016 annual limit set under the EU’s Effort Sharing Decision (ESD), however the EPA’s projections indicate that Ireland will exceed its annual target in 2017.

Dr. Eimear Cotter, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability, said: “Achieving Ireland’s long-term decarbonisation objective can only take place with a transformation of our energy, agriculture and transport systems. We need to adopt a much greater sense of urgency about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels while radically improving energy efficiency. In relation to agriculture, Ireland must optimise agricultural production to ensure long term environmental integrity and sustainability. The growth in this sector, particularly for dairy and other cattle, points to very significant risks in relation to meeting our decarbonisation objectives.”

EU member states have agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 under the Paris Agreement. Ireland will also face a fine of €75 million per year if 16 percent of its energy doesn’t come from renewable energy sources by 2020.

Dr Cara Augustenborg, Chairperson of Friends of the Earth Ireland took to Twitter today to express her embarrassment at the release of the figures. She said: “Most EU member states have decreased emissions by 10 to 14 percent while Ireland continues to rise. So utterly embarrassing.”

By Cara Croke

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