Carbon emissions from Irish power generation and major industrial operations fell by 8.7 per cent during 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed. The reduction was in spite of a then booming economy prior to the Covid-19 pandemic hitting the Republic.
The decrease amounts to 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 compared to 2018. It is mainly due to a significant drop in power generation emissions by 12.3 per cent as a result of the strong presence of renewable energy (mainly wind generation) and less use of fossil fuels, the EPA said. It monitors emissions under the EU emissions trading system (ETS).
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from aviation, however, rose by 2.8 per cent to 12.8 million tonnes. Emissions from agriculture, transport and the heating of buildings are audited separately by the EPA and have been increasing over the past 10 years.
The permanent closure of ESB peat-fired power plants in Shannonbridge in Co Offaly and Lanesboro in Co Longford this year will see further reductions in power sector emissions. Reduced demand in electricity and horticulture markets due to Covid-19 led to Bord na Móna laying off 230 employees temporarily from its energy business unit this week.
Cement industries recorded a 2 per cent decrease; the dairy industry showed a 3 per cent decrease and emissions from pharmachem industries decreased by 0.4 per cent.
EPA senior manager Dr Maria Martin, said: “This is the third year in a row we have seen a fall in GHG emissions from participants in the ETS, mainly power generation and industry. This reflects a positive move to lower use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and an increase in renewables.”
Minister for Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton welcomed the 8.7 per cent reduction.
“Emissions from our largest energy users have fallen from a high of 20.3 tonnes of CO2 in 2008, to 14.1 tonnes last year. This has been largely due to investment in our renewable energy capacity, which today stands at around 33 per cent of all electricity generation. Through the [Government’s ]climate action plan, we have committed to increasing this to 70 per cent by 2030.”
The results show it was possible to break the link between economic progress and emissions, he believed. “Last year, the economy grew by 6 per cent but our electricity and major industrial emissions fell by 8.7 per cent. It is welcome progress, but we must do more.”
As Ireland considered its future recovery, Mr Bruton said “we must ensure climate resilience is built in and that we leverage Ireland’s natural assets and invest in our renewable capacity, particularly offshore wind”.
The plan is designed to reduce emissions by 35 per cent by 2030, while the Government has endorsed the European Green Deal, which will see the EU raise its ambition to 50-55 per cent. This will require further development of the plan, Mr Bruton accepted, “and inclusion of new ambition and new actions” backed by rigorous implementation and reporting.