Report finds Ireland is one of Europe’s biggest greenhouse gas polluters

27 Aug 2019

Image: © vladimircaribb/

A new report published by the CSO has shown Ireland to be one of the biggest greenhouse gas polluters in Europe, largely driven by agriculture.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) should make uncomfortable reading for the Government and policy makers after it showed Ireland is the third highest producer of greenhouse gases per capita in Europe as of 2017, behind Estonia and Luxembourg.

The Environmental Indicators Ireland 2019 report examined a number of factors relating to the environment and the country, including emissions, water, land use and air quality. The key finding relating to greenhouse gases showed that Ireland produced 13.3 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per capita in 2017. Of that amount, the agricultural sector was deemed the biggest contributor at 33pc of the total.

Overall, Ireland produced 60.7m tonnes of CO2 equivalent for that year, which marked a reduction on the figure of 70.5m in 2001. However, this reduction is lessened by the fact it still marks an increase of 9.6pc compared with the 1990 figure of 55.4m tonnes.

In a wider context, Ireland compares poorly with the EU as a whole, which saw emissions fall by 23pc from 5.6bn tonnes in 1990 to 2.2bn tonnes in 2017. Russia was also highlighted by the report as showing a significant drop, with a 32pc reduction from 3.2bn tonnes in 1990 to 2.2bn tonnes in 2017.

Looking further afield, while the US has maintained a steady 6.5bn tonnes in 2017, Turkey has seen its CO2 equivalent emissions surge by 140pc from 219m tonnes in 1990 to 526m in 2017.

Water pollution and air quality

When it comes to air quality, Ireland once again shows mixed returns. Overall air quality improved in 2017, except for ammonia, which rose by 7.9pc in the space of 27 years, making us the seventh worst in Europe in this category.

Furthermore, Ireland is ranked the worst in Europe for levels of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, as well as in the category of non-methane volatile organic compounds, which includes ethanol and acetone.

Ireland’s use of natural gas has fluctuated considerably since 1990 when it totalled 54pc of the country’s energy production, before falling to 6pc in 2015. However, this surged to 59pc in 2017 due to resources from the Corrib Gas Field.

Some promising results were seen in waste collection, with the recovery rate for packaging waste increasing from 25pc in 2001 to 88pc in 2016. Yet the country’s waterways have not fared as well in recent years, with the proportion of unpolluted river water falling from 77.3pc in 1987 to 68.9pc in 2015.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic