EPA: 2019 Irish emissions a ‘step in right direction’, but targets will be missed

20 Nov 2020

Image: © Nady/Stock.adobe.com

The EPA has published figures for Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions for 2019, which showed the largest reduction since 2011.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has described its provisional figures for 2019 greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland as a “step in the right direction”. However, the agency warned that it is highly likely the country will miss its 2020 emissions reduction targets, even taking into account the impact of Covid-19.

Ireland’s emissions decreased by 4.5pc last year, which was the largest decrease since 2011. This, the agency said, was due to significant reductions in the energy, agricultural and residential sectors and despite a modest growth in the domestic economy of 1.9pc in 2019.

The energy industry saw a decrease in emissions of 11.2pc last year, attributable to a 69pc decrease in coal use and an 8pc reduction in peat for electricity generation. Electricity from wind increased by 16pc in 2019, with renewables accounting for 37.6pc of electricity generated.

Agriculture emissions decreased by 3.9pc for the year, driven by a 10.1pc reduction in fertiliser use and a 25.4pc reduction in the quantity of lime used in soils. However, the amount of emissions produced by the number of dairy cows in the country increased in 2019.

The EPA warned that despite a 7.3pc reduction in emissions in residential areas – bolstered by a warmer winter – emissions per household have plateaued, indicating a need for more efforts to retrofit homes to make them more energy efficient.

The transport sector saw a marginal decrease last year of 0.3pc. An increased demand for transport was largely offset by more biofuel use, which was up 21.9pc.

Impact of Covid-19

Commenting on the figures, EPA director general Laura Burke said this “much needed reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is a welcome step in the right direction”.

“The figures show that emissions reductions can be achieved and in 2019 there have been reductions in power generation, agriculture and residential sectors,” she said. “However, if the 2020s are to be the decade of climate action, this level of emission reductions, at a minimum, will be required annually.”

Commenting on the impact of Covid-19 on Ireland’s emissions this year, EPA senior manager Stephen Treacy said: “While, 2020 is likely to see a reduction in emissions caused by the impact of the pandemic, this does not negate the need for long-term and sustained action.

“Focusing on climate action as part of a ‘green’ recovery offers the opportunity to respond to climate change while rebuilding our economy and generating new jobs.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic