The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says Ireland is “highly unlikely” to meet its 2020 targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, despite the impact of COVID-19 on economic activity.
The watchdog’s provisional figures for last year show emissions of 59.90 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2eq), a 4.5% decline from 2018 which was achieved despite continuing growth in the Irish economy.
The EPA’s estimates of greenhouse gas emissions for the period 1990-2019 indicate that Ireland will exceed its 2019 annual limit set under the EU’s Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) by 6.98 Mt CO2eq. This would be the fourth year in a row for Ireland to miss the EU target.
The agency, however, described the 2019 reduction in emissions as a “step in the right direction” that must be sustained and enhanched over the next decade.
Declines in coal and peat
The falls were mainly due to lower emissions in the energy, agriculture and transport sectors.
Energy industries showed a decrease of 11.2% last year, due to a 69% drop in coal and an 8% decline in peat used in electricity generation. Electricity generated from wind increased by 16% in 2019.
Agriculture emissions fell by 3.9%, driven by a 10% reduction in nitrogen fertiliser use and a 25% drop in the quantity of lime used on soils. The EPA described this as a welcome reduction, but warned that it may be difficult to sustain, as dairy cow numbers increased for the ninth consecutive year in 2019.
Greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector fell slightly, mainly due to increased use of biofuels, which offset an overall increase in the amount of energy consumed by transport.
In the residential sector, emissions fell by 7.3%, as households used less coal and peat. A warmer winter also helped reduce kerosene and natural gas usage.