Reductions in Irish Air Pollutants

The EPA has published information on Ireland’s position in 2009 in relation to meeting the 2010 obligations under the National Emissions Ceilings Directive (NEC Directive). The figures show the trends for four key air pollutants – sulphur dioxide (S02), nitrogen oxides (N0X), volatile organic compounds (VOC) and ammonia (NH3) – over the period 1990 to 2009.

S02, N0X, VOC and NH3 are responsible for long-range transboundary air pollution such as acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone pollution. The European Community, through the National Emissions Ceiling Directive, limits emissions of these four pollutants by 2010 through country specific national ceilings.

Commenting on the figures Dr Mary Kelly, director general of the EPA, says: “EPA emission data for 2009 show that Ireland is already in compliance with the 2010 limit for three of the four transboundary air pollutants. This reflects the success of initiatives such as the incentivisation of sulphur-free transport fuels; the use of cleaner natural gas; the ban on bituminous coals and IPPC licensing controls. Despite reducing N0X emissions 31.3% between 1990 and 2009, these emissions – which are mainly due to increased numbers and use of road vehicles – continue to pose a problem.”

Nitrogen Oxides

The main sources of N0X emissions in Ireland are the transport sector and power generation. Emissions have decreased by 31% between 1990 and 2009 and by 16% in the last year alone. Despite this significant reduction, these figures show that, based on 2009 results, Ireland would exceed its 2010 N0X ceiling of 65 kilotonnes by 24 kilotonnes (37%).

Sulphur Dioxide

Power stations are the principal source of S02 emissions in Ireland. S02 emissions have reduced considerably between 1990 and 2009. These latest estimates indicate a decrease of 82% over the period 1990 to 2009.

Ireland’s national emission ceiling for S02 under the NEC Directive is 42 kilotonnes to be achieved by 2010. Emissions of S02 in 2009 at 32.7 kilotonnes are already compliant with this 2010 ceiling.

Volatile Organic Compounds

The main sources of VOC emissions in Ireland are solvent use and transport. VOC emissions decreased by 41% between 1990 and 2009.

Ireland’s national emissions ceilings for VOC is 55 kilotonnes to be achieved by 2010. Emissions in 2009 at 52.2 kilotonnes are already compliant with the 2010 ceiling.


The agriculture sector accounts for virtually all ammonia emissions in Ireland. NH3 emissions increased by 2% between 1990 and 2009 in comparison with an allowed maximum increase of 10% under the National Emission Ceiling.

Ireland’s national emission ceiling for NH3 is 116 kilotonnes to be achieved by 2010. Emissions since 2003 have already been compliant with the 2010 ceiling. With 2009 emissions at 107.8 kilotonnes. Since the NH3 emissions trend is largely determined by the cattle population, increasing cattle numbers to above 2,000 population levels would push NH3 levels above the National Emission Ceiling.

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