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Image / Editorial

Ireland has exceeded its greenhouse gas emissions target… again


by Grace McGettigan
24th Oct 2019
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Greenhouse gas emissions Ireland

Ireland has exceeded its carbon emissions budget, as set by the European Union, for the third year in a row – where did it go so wrong?


New findings by the Environmental Protection Agency show that Ireland has, once again, exceeded its carbon emissions target as set for us by the EU.

The news comes just two weeks after Extinction Rebellion activists took to the streets in Dublin, and just a month since the Global Climate Strike led by Greta Thunberg.

It’s the third year in a row we’ve missed the target – and the figures are getting worse year-on-year. According to the EPA, Ireland exceeded its greenhouse gas budget by a whopping five million tonnes in 2018. The year before, we were off-target by three million tonnes, and the year before by nearly 300,000 tonnes.

Not good enough

Overall, there was a marginal decrease in our emissions (just 0.2%), but not near enough to stay within the EU target.

These figures show that Ireland is falling short in terms of lowering our emissions to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Dr Eimear Cotter, director of the EPA’s office of environmental sustainability, said the country is “significantly off-course” and must “implement the ambitious commitments in the 2019 Climate Action Plan to play its role in averting the worst impacts of climate change”.

Where did we go wrong?

According to the report, household emissions increased by 7.9% last year. This was largely due to the colder winter and increased demand for home heating (with oil remaining the predominant heating fuel).

What’s more, agriculture emissions increased by 1.9% and it seems cows are to blame. “Dairy cow numbers have increased by 27% in the last five years while greenhouse gas emissions increased by 8% over that time,” said the EPA.

“While agricultural production has gained some efficiency over this period, these gains will not be sufficient to deliver overall emission reductions. Full implementation of the measures outlined in the Climate Action Plan is required.”

The transport industry is also partly responsible, with transport emissions increasing by 1.7% in 2018. “This is the fifth year out of the last six with increased emissions in transport, reflecting our growing economy with more movement of people and goods,” said the EPA.

It seems diesel-use increased by 4.6% and biofuels use decreased by 4% during this time, with the EPA saying, “Reversing this trend will require the widespread transition to electric vehicles, increased use of public transport and reducing the number of car journeys”.

Not all bad

The only decrease in greenhouse gas emissions came from the energy industry, reveals the report.

“Energy industry emissions decreased by 11.7% in 2018,” the EPA said. “The most significant change was a decrease in coal (44%), which largely driven by maintenance works at the Moneypoint generating station; and an increase in renewable energy.

“In 2018, electricity generated from wind increased by 14% with the proportion of electricity generation from renewables now at 32.6%.”

If you would like to make your voice heard in the fight against climate change, the second Global Strike for Climate will take place on November 29. 

Photo: Wikimedia


Read more: Irish government to introduce ban and/or levy on non-recyclable plastics

Read more: Is Extinction Rebellion highlighting or distracting from the climate campaign?

Read more: How to have an eco-friendly death in Ireland