Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Ireland are not showing much change in 2018. They have only slightly decreased (-0.1%) from 2017 levels. The energy sector (particularly electricity generation) significantly reduced its GHG emissions. But emissions from households, transport and agriculture all increased.
Main changes in emissions since 2017 include:
Household emissions (the residential sector) increased by 7.9% (0.46 Mt CO2eq), which was influenced by a high demand for home heating (especially oil) during the cold winter in 2018. This reflects the scale of the challenge to improve the energy efficiency of our housing stock and to increase the use of renewable energy. It is particularly important, given the increased frequency of extreme weather events.
Transport emissions increased by 1.6% in 2018 (0.20 Mt CO2eq). This is the fifth year out of the last six with increased emissions in transport, which reflects our growing economy with more movement of people and goods. In road transport in 2018:
- Diesel use increased by 4.6%
- Petrol use decreased by 9.2%
- Biofuels use decreased by 4%
This increase in emissions from transport can be reversed if people change to electric vehicles, reduce their number of car journeys and increase their use of public transport, walkways and cycleways.
Agriculture emissions increased by 1.9% in 2018 (0.38 Mt CO2eq). The main reasons are higher numbers of dairy cows (+2.7%), which reflect national plans to expand milk production. Dairy cow numbers have increased by 27% in the last five years (2013-2018) while greenhouse gas emissions increased by 8%. Although agricultural production became more efficient over this period, the improvements were not sufficient to reduce overall emissions.
Energy industry emissions decreased by 10.7% (1.27 Mt CO2eq) in 2018. The most significant change in fuel used was a decrease in coal (mainly as a result of maintenance works at the Moneypoint generating station) and an increase in renewable energy.
- From coal – decreased by 44%
- From wind energy – increased by 14%
- From renewable energy – increased to 33% of all electricity generated in Ireland
Further findings of the EPA estimates of greenhouse gas emissions 2018
The EPA produced final estimates of greenhouse gas emissions for the period 1990-2018 which indicate that Ireland exceeded its 2018 annual limit set under the EU’s Effort Sharing Decision (ESD), 406/2009/EC by 5.59 Mt CO2eq.
For 2018, total national greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to be 60.93 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2eq). This is 0.1% lower (0.07 Mt CO2eq) than emissions in 2017.
In 2018, emissions in the European Union’s Emissions Trading Sector (ETS) decreased by 8.2% or 1.38 Mt CO2eq and ESD emissions increased by 3.0% or 1.3 Mt CO2eq.
Agriculture and Transport sectors accounted for 72.4% of total ESD emissions in 2018.
Commercial services and Public services sectors increased by 5.3% and 8.2% respectively in 2018 also due to a colder winter as was seen in the residential sector.
Emissions from the Manufacturing Combustion sector increased by 0.18 Mt CO2eq or 3.9% in 2018 with increases in combustion emissions for all sub sectors including cement, which increased by 5.8% in 2018.
The Industrial Processes sector emissions increased by 2.0% or 0.05 Mt CO2eq,mainly from increased cement production. Cement process emissions increased by 4.2% in 2018.
Emissions from the Waste sector decreased by 3.2% or 0.03 Mt CO2eq in 2018.
Ireland’s National Policy position is to reduce CO2 emissions in 2050 by 80% on 1990 levels across the Energy Generation, Built Environment and Transport sectors, with a goal of Climate neutrality in the Agriculture and Land-Use sector. The 2018 emissions show a large decrease in Energy Generation. However, emissions in the Agriculture, Transport, Residential, Commercial and Public Services sectors are heading in the wrong direction.
 Manufacturing Combustion; includes combustion of fuels in Industry and Construction, both in ETS and ESD
Ireland's projected emissions 2019-2030
• Ireland's latest projections (published in July 2020) show total emissions decreasing from the latest (2018) levels by 2% by 2030 under the With Existing Measures (WEM) scenario and by 23% under the With Additional Measures (WAM) scenario. The With Existing Measures scenario assumes that no additional policies and measures beyond those already in place by the end of 2018 (latest national GHG inventory), are implemented. The With Additional Measures scenario assumes implementation of the With Existing Measures scenario in addition to implementation of planned government policies and measures adopted after the end of the 2018. Importantly, this includes Ireland’s 2019 Climate Action Plan.
• Implementation of the With Additional Measures scenario (including the impact of the 2019 Climate Action Plan) is projected to save 79 Mt CO2 eq over the period 2021-2030 compared to the With Existing Measures scenario. This represents an average annual reduction of 2.9% over the period.
• Ireland is projected to meet non-ETS EU targets over the period 2021 to 2030 under the With Additional Measures scenario. This assumes full implementation of the 2019 Climate Action Plan and the use of flexibilities in relation to land use, land use change and forestry. However, Ireland’s non-ETS emissions are projected to be only 2-4% below 2005 levels in 2020, compared to the EU target of 20%.
• Full and early implementation of the 2019 Climate Action Plan is needed if the savings projected in the With Additional Measures are to materialise. The scale and pace of the changes needed are significant, requiring much greater reliance on renewables, cross-cutting measures such as an €80 per tonne of CO2 carbon tax by 2030 and further ambitious measures in sectors such as transport, agriculture and power generation.