Projections show Ireland will not meet its EU Greenhouse Gas emissions targets

Date released: Apr 25 2013

Figures released today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicate that while Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions will comply with its Kyoto Protocol obligations (2008 – 2012), Ireland is at significant risk of not meeting our EU 2020 targets even under the best-case scenario.

EPA projections for the period 2012 to 2020 show:

  • Ireland can comply with its Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas reduction obligations for the first commitment period (2008 – 2012). 
  • Ireland is required to reduce its emissions by 20% by 2020, however, these projections indicate that we will breach our annual obligations under the EU 2020 target from 2016 onwards in the best-case scenario.
  • Strong projected growth in emissions from transport and agriculture are the key contributors to this trend. 

For action to be taken to tackle climate change, individual countries need to estimate the amount of greenhouse gases they emit and how much they are likely to emit in the future. The figures published today show the projected trends for greenhouse gases up to 2020 and give a picture of Ireland’s ability to meet EU and international targets with respect to greenhouse gas emissions. Projections are updated annually to take account of new information and show two scenarios – one based on existing policies and measures and the other on existing policies plus all planned policies and measures that are currently known.

Commenting on the figures Dara Lynott, Deputy Director General, EPA said

“Reductions in Ireland’s greenhouse gases to-date are, primarily, a direct result of the current economic recession and economic outlook for the future. Ireland cannot rely on recession to meet our long term carbon reduction requirements and needs to develop as a low carbon and resource efficient economy. All sectors of the economy must contribute to emission reductions with a strong focus on those sectors – transport and agriculture – that dominate our emissions profile. Significant reductions are needed in the transport and agriculture sectors which are currently showing an increasing trend in emissions into the future”.

Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions profile is unique in the dominance of the agriculture sector. Emissions from the transport sector are also significant. By 2020 transport and agriculture are projected to account for nearly 80% of Ireland’s emissions not accounted for under the Emissions Trading Scheme. Under the most ambitious reduction scenario, transport and agriculture emissions are projected to both increase by 12% by 2020. This scenario assumes that ambitious targets are met for renewable fuel penetration, electric vehicle rollout and targets under the Food Harvest 2020.

Speaking at the launch of the EPA projections, Dr Eimear Cotter, Senior Manager, EPA said:

“While cost-effective greenhouse gas mitigation options may be limited in agriculture and transport, reductions in both of these sectors will need to be achieved in the context of increasing emissions. Economic incentives can play a role in reducing emissions by stimulating a change in behavioural patterns. Areas that can make a difference include using resources more efficiently, travel behaviour, farming practice, energy efficiency and societal engagement."

The EPA Projections of greenhouse gas emissions to 2020 are available on the EPA website. 

Editor’s Note:

EPA Emission Projection Scenarios

Estimates of future emissions are inherently uncertain. Therefore, projections need to be continually updated and refined to take account of the most recent socioeconomic, technological and policy developments, to update key assumptions and to take account of better data and better models as they become available. Emissions projections for all sectors are updated on an annual basis to ensure that all relevant developments are captured and incorporated.

The EPA has two scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions which are described as follows:

  1. the with measures scenario is based on existing and currently implemented policies and measures. 
  2. the with additional measures scenario adjusts the with measures scenario to account for all existing and currently planned policies and measures. Planned policies and measures include the renewable energy targets and energy efficiency targets as set out in the National Renewable Energy action Plan (NREAP) and the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP).

Emissions reductions under the with additional measures scenario will be realised mainly in the period 2012 to 2020.
Assumptions underlying these projections are that:

  1. all relevant policies and measures outlined in current Government policy documents will be adopted and fully implemented on time and 
  2. all relevant measures will achieve the full emissions reductions anticipated.

Failure to deliver on any of these measures, or a reduction in their effectiveness will result in higher emissions levels than projected. The difficulties associated with meeting these criteria should thus not be underestimated.
Energy Forecasts Underpinning Energy-Related Emissions Projections

The greenhouse gas emission projections presented here are based on data provided by a range of other State agencies and organisations, most notably Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) for energy forecasts and Teagasc for forecast animal numbers.

Energy-related emissions projections are based on energy forecasts developed by SEAI. These energy forecasts are based on macroeconomic forecasts supplied by ESRI which assume average annual GNP growth of 1.5% per annum between 2012 and 2015 and 3.3% between 2016 and 2020. In terms of GDP, average annual growth rates are 2.2% between 2012 and 2015 and 3.1% between 2016 and 2020.