Ireland projected to miss its EU greenhouse gas emission reduction targets

Date released: Mar 07 2016

  • Ireland is unlikely to meet 2020 EU greenhouse gas emission targets for sectors including  agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, non-energy intensive industry and waste;
  • Ireland’s emission reduction target is 20% below 2005 levels by 2020: EPA projections indicate that emissions will be 6 - 11% below 2005 levels by 2020;
  • Agriculture and transport are projected to account for over three-quarters of Ireland’s non-Emissions Trading Scheme emissions in 2020:  agriculture (47%), transport (29%);
  • Current and planned policies and measures are not sufficient to meet the 2020 targets.

Environmental Protection Agency figures released today show that Ireland is unlikely to meet its 2020 EU greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and cast doubts over efforts to transition to a low carbon economy in the long term.

Ireland’s EU target for 2020 is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the non-Emissions Trading Scheme (non-ETS) sector by 20% on 2005 levels. The non-ETS sector covers emissions from agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, non-energy intensive industry and waste sectors.

The latest projections show that:

  • Ireland’s non-ETS sector emissions are projected to be 6 - 11% below 2005 levels by 2020, compared to the 2020 target of 20% below 2005 levels;
  • While there is overachievement of annual obligations in the early years of the compliance period (2013-2020), this will not be sufficient to allow Ireland to cumulatively meet its compliance obligations. Ireland is expected to breach annual obligation targets in 2016 or 2017, depending on the level of implementation of emission reduction policies and measures;
  • Full implementation of policies and measures out to 2020, including current targets for energy efficiency in our homes and businesses and increasing renewable fuel use in transport and heating, will not be sufficient to meet 2020 emission reduction targets;
  • Projected increased emissions from the agriculture sector (impacted by the Food Wise 2025 Strategy), and growing transport sector emissions, dominate the projected emissions trend.

Agriculture and transport are projected to account for 76% of Ireland’s non-ETS sector emissions in 2020 (agriculture (47%), transport (29%)). For the period 2014-2020, agriculture emissions are projected to increase by 6 - 7%. Transport emissions are projected to show strong growth over the period to 2020 with a 10 - 16% increase on 2014 levels.

New obligations for Ireland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the years 2021-2030 are being negotiated at EU level in 2016.  The further away Ireland is from the 20% reduction target in 2020, the more difficult the compliance challenges in the following decade are likely to become.

Commenting on the figures, Laura Burke, EPA Director General, said:

“Ireland’s economy is beginning to grow again and we must balance our focus on growth with a focus on becoming more sustainable and reducing emissions. The adoption of the Paris Agreement on climate change in December provides an ambitious, legally binding framework for global action on Climate Change. In addition Ireland has taken a national policy position that commits us to reducing our carbon emissions by 80 per cent in 2050 on 1990 levels across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors while achieving carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land use sectors. 

However EPA projections indicate that we face considerable challenges to become a low carbon economy. Ireland must follow a pathway to decarbonising energy, transport and heating.  We must break our dependence on fossil energy infrastructures. In addition the agriculture, forestry and land use sectors should achieve effective greenhouse gas emissions neutrality by 2050. This will take planning, investment and time but can be achieved in the overall framework of national, EU and global commitments.”

Greenhouse Gas Emission Projections to 2020 – An update is available on the EPA website.


Editor’s Note:
EU greenhouse gas emission targets and reduction obligations for Ireland are split into two broad categories.  The first category covers the large energy and power (i.e. energy intensive) industry which have their emissions controlled under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.  The second category (which is the subject of this press release) deals with the non-Emissions Trading Scheme sectors such as agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, waste and non-energy intensive industry. The EU’s Effort Sharing Decision (Decision No 406/2009/EC) sets targets for the non-Emissions Trading Scheme sector for EU Member States including Ireland for 2020.

The Environmental Protection Agency produces greenhouse gas emission projections on an annual basis for all sectors of the economy in collaboration with relevant State and other bodies.

Ireland’s 2020 target is to achieve a 20% reduction of non-Emissions Trading Scheme sector emissions on 2005 levels with annual binding limits set for each year over the period 2013-2020. Similar to the 2015 projections, the Environmental Protection Agency has estimated annual limits and a 2020 target for Ireland which incorporates methodology changes underpinning greenhouse gas emission inventories and projections. 

To determine compliance under the EU Effort Sharing Decision (Decision No 406/2009/EC), any overachievement of the binding emission limit in a particular year can be banked and used towards compliance in a future year. For example, if non-Emissions Trading Scheme sector emissions for 2013 are below the annual binding limit, the difference can be used towards compliance in subsequent years.

Greenhouse gas emissions are projected to the year 2020 using two scenarios:

  • With Measures scenario assumes that no additional policies and measures, beyond those already in place by the end of 2014, are implemented.
  • With Additional Measures scenario assumes implementation of the With Measures scenario and that Government policies and measures for 2020, for example renewable fuels and energy efficiency targets, will be fully implemented.  Emission reductions under the with additional measures scenario assume achievement of such policies and measures in the period to 2020.  Planned policies and measures include the renewable energy targets and energy efficiency targets as set out in the National Renewable Energy Action Plan and the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan.
    These two scenarios give an upper and lower range for greenhouse gas emissions into the future, and it is likely that actual emissions will fall somewhere within this range.

The following are key underlying data that underpin this year’s greenhouse gas emission projections:

  • Energy-related emission projections are based on energy forecasts provided to the Environmental Protection Agency by Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland in December 2014.
  • The energy forecasts are based on a set of macroeconomic assumptions supplied by the Economic and Social Research Institute (Quarterly Economic Commentary published in Autumn 2014). If recent, unusually low, oil prices continue in the longer term it could result in emissions higher than those forecast.
  • Agriculture emission projections are based on data from Teagasc which were provided to the Environmental Protection Agency in December 2015. A key assumption underpinning the agriculture emissions projections is sustainable growth under Food Wise 2025.
  • The impact of forest sinks is not included in this compliance assessment. This is in line with EU accounting rules which do not allow the use of forest sinks to meet EU 2020 targets.