Environmental Protection Agency figures released show that Ireland faces considerable challenges in moving to a low carbon economy. In particular, there is a significant risk that, even under the best-case scenario, Ireland will not meet its EU 2020 targets.
Ireland’s EU target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport, agriculture, residential, waste and non-energy intensive industry by 20% by 2020 (compared to emissions for 2005). EPA projections show that:
Under the best case scenario, greenhouse gas emissions will remain relatively static up to 2020;
As a result, emissions in 2020 will be 5-12 per cent below 2005 levels and will not meet the 20 per cent reduction target.
“Today’s figures show that we are currently not on track to becoming a low-carbon economy,” said Laura Burke, Director General of the EPA. “We have not solved the problem of greenhouse gas emissions and this becomes an even more pressing challenge as the economy begins to improve and places further new pressures on emissions targets.”
Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions profile is unique in the dominance of the agriculture sector. Emissions from the transport sector are also significant. Emissions in some sectors such as residential, waste, and services are projected to decrease between now and 2020, but emissions from the agriculture and transport sectors – even under the best case scenario – are projected to increase by 15 per cent and 9%, respectively. These figures assume that ambitious targets will be met for renewable fuel penetration, electric vehicle rollout and Food Harvest 2020.
“Recent IPCC reports are clear that climate change is already impacting on us and the natural systems on which we depend”, Laura Burke said. “We need to reduce potential future risks by taking effective action to lower our emissions of greenhouse gases. We must invest in structural and behavioural change to enable our transition to a carbon neutral and climate resilient Ireland. These changes include the rapid decarbonisation of energy and transport and the adoption of sustainable food production, management and consumption systems”.
After 2020 – Greenhouse Gas Emissions to 2030
For the period 2020 to 2030, greenhouse gas emissions are projected to be 11 per cent higher again than in 2020 if further policies and measures are not in place to curb the growth in carbon intensity. The EPA concludes that achieving the significant emission reductions that will underpin a competitive, low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy poses significant challenges for Ireland.
Speaking at the launch of the EPA projections, Dr Eimear Cotter, Senior Manager, EPA said: “We need to translate our national commitment to a low-carbon future into action on the ground if we are to deliver the required emission reductions. This is an opportunity for Ireland to show leadership as a low-carbon economy. There are wide benefits for business and farmers, for example, which include reducing impacts and costs; managing and minimising risk more effectively and building competitive advantage through innovative products and processes.”