Ireland on Track to Meet Greenhouse Gas Emissions Targets

Provisional greenhouse gas emissions figures released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) include trends since 1990, and show Ireland’s status in meeting our obligations set under the Kyoto Protocol. Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 0.69 million tonnes (1.1%) in 2010.

Agriculture remains the single largest contributor to overall emissions, at 30.4% of the total, followed by Energy (primarily power generation) and Transport at 21.7% and 19.1%  respectively. The remainder is made up by the Industry and Commercial at 14.9%, the Residential sector at 12.6% and Waste at 1.5%.

The figures show that, while Ireland’s Kyoto limit in the period 2008-2012 is 62.84 million tonnes per annum, Ireland’s combined emissions in 2008, 2009 and 2010 were 6.65 million tonnes above this limit when the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and approved Forest Sinks are taken into account. Taking unused allowances from the ETS into account, Ireland is on track to meet its Kyoto commitment.

”The reduction in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions is welcome, particularly the continued reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector,” comments Laura Burke, director of EPA. “Ireland is on track to meet our emission limits for 2008-2012 under the Kyoto Protocol. However in order to meet the very stringent EU 2020 limits and to move permanently to a low carbon economy, new policies are required to be identified, assessed, adopted and implemented.”

Dr Eimear Cotter, senior manager at EPA, says: :”Emission reductions have been recorded across Transport and Waste with all other sectors showing an increase on 2009 levels. This is despite the economy contracting in 2010 and highlights the challenge we are facing in meeting our emission reduction targets.”

Changes to Sectoral Emissions

The emissions from agriculture increased by 0.04 million tonnes (0.2%) in 2010. This is the first increase in this sector since 2003. The increase in emissions reflects primarily a large increase in fertiliser sales as well as an increase in gas oil use on farms. Declining trends in total cattle numbers and sheep continue in 2010 while swine numbers have increased relative to 2009.

Emissions related to energy are calculated based on SEAI’s annual energy balance and for 2010 were 0.25 million tonnes higher than in 2009 which represents a 1.9% increase. This reflects a reduction in the share of renewables in gross electricity consumption from 14.3% in 2009 to 12.9% in 2010. Wind and hydro resources were less in 2010 which resulted in more electricity generation from coal and gas-fired power stations.

Transport emissions were 1.32 million tonnes lower in 2010 than in 2009. This represents a decrease of 10.1%, following sustained increases in this sector since 1990. The decrease primarily reflects the impact of the economic downturn plus the changes in vehicle registration tax and road tax introduced in mid-2008 and the Biofuels Obligation Scheme. Emissions in 2010 were 131% higher than the 1990 transport emissions.

Industry and commercial emissions increased by 0.1 million tonnes (1.1%) in 2010. This reflects an increase in CO2 emissions from the alumina industry which is offset, to some extent, by the continuing decline in cement production. In particular, returns from the EU Emissions Trading Scheme show emissions from the cement sector peaked in 2007 and have decreased by 55% between 2007 and 2010.

Residential emissions in 2010 increased by 0.32 million tonnes (4.4%) from the 2009 level. This reflects an increase in fossil fuel use from households due to a considerably colder and longer heating season in 2010.

Waste emissions show a decrease of 0.07 million tonnes (6.9%) below the 2009 level which reflects increased methane utilisation for electricity production relative to 2009. Landfill gas utilisation and on-site flaring offset over 70% of methane production in 2010.

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