National greenhouse gas emissions lower in 2013

  • Greenhouse gas emission increases were recorded across the Agriculture, Transport and Household sectors in 2013.
  • Greenhouse gas emission decreases were recorded across the Energy and Industry & Commercial Services sectors in 2013.
  • Emission increases highlight the challenge that Ireland faces in meeting EU and international targets and in moving to a low-carbon economy.
  • Key emissions trends in 2013 were as follows:
    • Total greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 0.7% (0.4 million tonnes)
    • Agriculture emissions increased by 2.6% (0.5 Mtonnes)
    • Transport sector emissions increased by 2.1% (0.2 Mtonnes)
    • Household sector emissions increased by 2.6% (0.2 Mtonnes)
    • Energy emissions (principally electricity generation) decreased by 11.1% (1.4 Mtonnes).
    • Industry and Commercial emissions decreased by 0.7% (0.06 Mtonnes)

The EPA released provisional greenhouse gas emissions figures today which show that total greenhouse gas emissions fell by 0.7% to 57.81 million tonnes in 2013. While the overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is welcome, the picture in individual sectors is mixed; specifically, those sectors not part of the EU emissions trading scheme all show increased emissions.

Over 70% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions come from three sectors. This highest emitter is the Agriculture sector at 32.3% of the total. The next highest emitter is the Energy sector (primarily electricity generation) at 19.6% followed by Transport at 19.1%. The remainder is made up by Industry and Commercial Services at 15.4%, the Residential sector at 11.1% and Waste at 2.5%.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the Energy sector decreased by 11.1% in 2013 as power generation increased from renewable energy, including both wind and biomass. Similarly, emission levels in Industry and Commercial Services recorded a decrease in emissions (0.7%) in 2013.

All other sectors – Agriculture, Transport, Households and Waste – showed an increase in emission levels in 2013. The increase in the Agriculture sector (2.6%) is driven by increased use of synthetic fertiliser and higher animal numbers including dairy cows and beef cattle. This reflects on-going expansion in milk production under the Food Harvest 2020 strategy.

The Transport sector, a key source of emissions, also recorded higher emission levels (2.1%) in 2013. This increase is underpinned by more diesel use, an increase in the number of passenger diesel cars and commercial vehicles.
The figures show that Ireland will meet its 2013 emission limit, set by the EU, for key sectors including agriculture, transport, households and waste. However, the increase in emissions across these sectors points to significant challenges in achieving long-term emission reductions and transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

Commenting on the figures Dr Eimear Cotter, Senior Manager, EPA, said:

“Ireland’s relevant emissions are under the 2013 limit set by the EU which is very welcome. However, a number of sectors are underperforming in terms of achieving emission reductions.  In particular, agriculture and transport – amongst the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland – both show higher emissions in 2013 compared to 2012.”

Eimear Cotter added:

“Despite a significant shift towards energy efficient cars, the transport sector showed the first increase in emissions since 2007. This illustrates the challenges associated with achieving long-term emission reductions from this sector particularly in the context of economic growth. In terms of agriculture, we need action to deliver a carbon neutral agri-food sector by 2050 that encompasses sustainable land management including forestry – this will require commitment at national, EU and international level.”

Changes to sectoral emissions between 2012 and 2013 were as follows:

Emissions related to energy were 1.42 million tonnes lower in 2013 than in 2012 which represent a reduction of 11.1%. This reflects an increase in electricity generated from renewables with wind increasing by 13.2%, biomass by 20.8% and a 27.9% decrease in hydro. There was also a significant increase (+220%) in electricity imported through the interconnectors – the associated emissions are not included in Ireland’s greenhouse gas inventory estimates. The high voltage interconnector with the UK began commercial operation in December 2012.

Emissions from agriculture increased by 0.48 million tonnes (2.6%) in 2013. This increase is underpinned by increased fertiliser use and increasing animal numbers, with dairy cow numbers 2.0% higher in 2013 compared with 2012. This rise reflects national plans to expand milk production under Food Harvest 2020 and with the removal of milk quotas in 2015. ‘Other cattle’ livestock, which includes beef cattle, increased by 2.2% in 2013.  In addition, sheep numbers increased by 1.5%.  This is the third year that this animal category has shown an increase and is consistent with favourable sheep market conditions in recent years. In contrast, pig numbers decreased by 1.4%.

Industry and Commercial
Emissions decreased by 0.06 million tonnes (0.7%) in 2013. Industrial emissions from large combustion sources within the EU Emissions Trading Scheme comprise the largest source of emissions in this category – these grew by 1.3% in 2013. However, combustion emissions within the commercial services sector (e.g. small businesses, public sector buildings such as hospitals and universities) declined by 8.0% mainly due to a 14.7% reduction in oil use and a 28.1% increase in biomass use.

Transport emissions were 0.23 million tonnes higher in 2013 than in 2012. This represents an increase of 2.1%. This is the first increase in transport emissions since 2007. The increase primarily reflects higher diesel use. The biofuel obligation scheme increased the percentage of biofuel by volume from 4.0% to 6.3% in 2013. Looking at the underlying drivers, the number of passenger diesel cars increased by 11.4% in 2013 while the number of passenger petrol cars decreased by 3.6% and commercial vehicle numbers increased by 2.8% in 2013.

Emissions in 2013 increased by 0.16 million tonnes (2.6%) compared to the 2012 level. This reflects increased solid fuel consumption – mainly coal and smokeless coal. There has been a move to solid fuel stove use due to higher oil and natural gas prices and the preference for buying fuel on a week-to-week basis. There was also a marginal increase in the use of oil and natural gas for space and hot water heating in homes in 2013. The weather in 2013 was slightly milder overall than in 2012, however, there was a long cold spell from January to May.

Emissions for this sector show an increase of 0.19 million tonnes (15.2%) above 2012 levels which reflects a 19.7% reduction in methane utilised or flared at landfill sites in 2013. Emissions from incineration also increased by 0.07 Mtonnes of CO2eq in 2013 which reflects the increase in municipal solid waste incinerated at Indaver Ireland’s Carranstown, Co. Meath site in 2013.

Download Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2013 from the EPA website.

Table 1: Estimation of distance to annual limits under the EU Effort Sharing Decision

Mt CO2eq 
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Total National Emissions 57.81
Less Verified Emissions for ETS 15.68
Total Non-ETS Emissions 42.12
Annual limits set under EU Effort Sharing Decision 46.89 45.75 44.63 43.5 42.37 41.24 40.11 38.97
Distance below annual limit 4.77


Notes to Editor:

The compilation of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions is undertaken on an annual basis by the EPA. These figures allow Ireland to meet international reporting requirements under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and provide reliable data to support the development of evidence-based climate relevant policies and measures.

Tonnes = tonnes CO2 equivalent

EU Emissions Trading Scheme
Approximately one third of Ireland’s GHG emissions are covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

Food Harvest 2020: A vision for Irish agri-food and fisheries
Food Harvest 2020 was launched by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food in 2010.  It set out a ten year growth strategy for Ireland’s agri-food, drinks, fisheries and forestry sectors.

Further information: Niamh Hatchell/Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours)