Ireland has exceeded its EU emissions budget three years running

24 Oct 2019

Image: © bluejeansw/

Ireland exceeded its annual emissions budget by more than 5m tonnes last year.

Drastic action is needed if Ireland is to meet its EU emissions targets by the end of the next decade, according to a new report published by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For the third year running, Ireland has exceeded its annual emissions budget, going over by more than 5m tonnes in 2018.

By comparison, Ireland exceeded its budget by 3m tonnes in 2017. Overall, greenhouse gas emissions saw a marginal decrease of 0.2pc in 2018, amounting to 0.14 megatons of CO2 equivalent.

By a considerable margin, the biggest increase in emissions came from households, jumping by 7.9pc following a cold winter last year. Oil is still the most common household fuel, the EPA said, reflecting the scale of the challenge in increasing housing’s resilience to extreme weather events and making the switch to renewable sources of heating.

Agricultural emissions increased by 1.9pc, largely driven by higher dairy cow numbers as part of national plans to increase milk production. In the last five years, the number of dairy cows has increased by 27pc, overlapping with an 8pc increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA said that while some efficiencies in this area have been brought in, these gains will do little to reduce overall emissions without fully implementing guidelines set in the Climate Action Plan.

The one outlier

Transport emissions increased by 1.7pc last year, believed to be linked with an improved economy and a greater amount of goods being shipped nationally and internationally. While petrol use decreased by 9.2pc, diesel use increased by 4.6pc.

On the other end of the scale, energy industry emissions decreased by 11.7pc, driven by a 44pc decrease in the use of coal and an increase in renewable energy. In 2018, electricity produced from wind increased by 14pc with renewable electricity now making up 32.6pc of the national grid.

This has resulted in the sector reducing its emissions from 437g of CO2 per kWh to 377g of CO2 per kWh.

“At a time of global urgency to address climate change, this is a national trend that we must reverse,” said Dr Eimear Cotter, director of the office of environmental sustainability at the EPA.

“It is time for businesses and communities to support and be supported in taking action to reduce emissions. Ireland must implement the ambitious commitments in the 2019 Climate Action Plan to play its role in averting the worst impacts of climate change.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic