Ireland's greenhouse gases down 1.1pc in 2010 – EPA figures

Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 1.1pc to 61.64m tonnes in 2010 according to new figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The figures reveal that greenhouse gas emissions fell in the transport and waste sectors but increased in the agriculture, energy, industry and commercial, and residential sectors.

Agriculture remains the single largest contributor to overall emissions, at 30.4pc of the total, followed by energy (primarily power generation) and transport at 21.7pc and 19.1pc  respectively. The remainder is made up by the industry and commercial at 14.9pc, the residential sector at 12.6pc and waste at 1.5pc.

The EPA’s Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2010 report shows that while Ireland’s Kyoto limit in the period 2008-2012 is 62.84m tonnes per annum, the country combined emissions in 2008, 2009 and 2010 were 6.65m 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,” said Laura Burke, director general of the 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.”

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

Sectoral breakdown

Emissions from agriculture increased by 0.04m tonnes (0.2pc) in 2010, the first increase in this sector since 2003. The EPA said the increase primarily reflects a large increase in fertiliser sales as well as an increase in gasoil 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 0.25m tonnes (1.9pc) higher than in 2009. This, according to the EPA, reflects a reduction in the share of renewables in gross electricity consumption from 14.3pc in 2009 to 12.9pc in 2010. Wind and hydro resources were down in 2010 which resulted in more electricity generation from coal and gas-fired power stations.

Transport emissions were 1.32m tonnes lower (10.1pc) in 2010 than in 2009. The decrease mainly reflects the impact of the economic downturn together with the changes in vehicle registration tax and road tax introduced in mid-2008 and the Biofuels Obligation Scheme.  Emissions in 2010 were 131pc higher than the 1990 transport emissions.

Emissions in industry and commercial increased by 0.1m tonnes (1.1pc) 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 55pc between 2007 and 2010.

Residential emissions in 2010 were up by 0.32m tonnes (4.4pc) from the 2009 level, reflecting an increase in fossil fuel use from households due to a considerably colder and longer heating season in 2010.

Finally, waste emissions fell by 0.07m tonnes (6.9pc), reflecting increased methane utilisation for electricity production relative to 2009. Landfill gas utilisation and on-site flaring offset over 70pc of methane production in 2010.

Grainne Rothery

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