Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions up for first time in six years

Rise due mainly to increases in coal and peat-fired electricity generation

Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 increased by 1 per cent to 57.92 million tonnes

Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 increased by 1 per cent to 57.92 million tonnes

Thu, Oct 10, 2013, 01:00




Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions – the gases are blamed for causing climate change – rose in 2012 for the first time in six years due mainly to increases in coal and peat-fired electricity generation as well as the number of cattle and sheep.

Although Ireland is set to meet its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, based on provisional figures for 2008-2012 the State’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 increased by 1 per cent to 57.92 million tonnes.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the energy industry recorded a 5.9 per cent increase, while residential emissions fell by the same percentage.

Industrial emissions rose by 1.6 per cent, and transport was down 3.5 per cent.

Agricultural emissions were 3 per cent higher in 2012 as cattle and sheep numbers increased in line with expansion of the sector under Food Harvest 2020, the industry-led programme being promoted by the Department of Agriculture.

Recovering economy
The reversal of a downward trend in emissions since 2006 “points to the significant challenges ahead in meeting EU 2020 targets and developing a low-carbon emission pathway to 2050, particularly in the context of a recovering economy”, the agency said.

It blamed low carbon prices for encouraging a shift to coal and peat-fired electricity generation, saying this had “significant implications for meeting long-term emissions reduction goals” and highlighted the need to boost the use of less intensive natural gas.

Despite claims by the ESB that it had reduced its carbon footprint by 30 per cent since 2006, Green Party leader and former minister for energy Eamon Ryan said Ireland needed to start shutting down the coal and peat-fired power stations immediately.

“There is no reason why we could not have them all closed within five years and rely instead on a combination of renewables, interconnection [with Britain] and cleaner gas-fired plants.”

Referring to agriculture, Mr Ryan said the Government needed to start preparing for the effects of climate change.

“The wet summer in 2012 led to us having to import fodder to feed our cattle this year. At the same time our emissions from agriculture rose.”

Friends of the Earth director Oisín Coghlan said it was “very worrying” that greenhouse gas emissions have started to rise while the economy was still flat-lining.

“The Government will have to act fast to ensure that economic growth does not lead to emissions skyrocketing again,” he said.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said the “marginal” increase in 2012 showed that “there can be no let-up in ensuring compliance” with current and future EU targets. He pledged that he would publish the final heads of a climate change Bill “early in 2014”.

According to the agency’s deputy director general Dara Lynott, the latest figures underlined the requirement to “decouple” emissions from economic growth and showed that “environmental pressures remain, and will increase, particularly as the economy starts to recover”.

Dr Eimear Cotter, senior manager involved in compiling the report, said reducing emissions “will require concerted policy action to develop a positive and long-term response to climate change”, including the acceptance of individual responsibility.

Energy loss
“Options such as greater efficiency at farm level, travelling less by car and reducing energy use and energy loss in households all offer potential to deliver emission reductions,” she said.

In another report the European Environment Agency said EU countries were making “mixed progress” towards the 2020 targets, even though the EU as a whole could reduce emissions by 21 per cent in 2020 with the national measures already adopted.