Agriculture and industry emissions may be peaking, CSO data indicates

Aviation emissions in Ireland rose 68% in 2022, according to new air data

The increase in air traffic since the end of the pandemic has led to a rise in greenhouse gas emissions. Photograph: Barrow Coakley.

Greenhouse gases associated with aviation rose significantly in 2022, alongside significant increases across other sectors of the Irish economy. However, data from industry and agriculture indicates their emissions may be peaking, according to the Central Statistics Office’s latest air emission accounts.

In 2022, greenhouse gas emissions based on “resident units” in Ireland rose by 10 per cent to 73.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, compared with 2021, its analysis published on Friday shows.

The increase in greenhouse gases in 2022 was “mainly due to a rise in emissions from aviation after the reduction in air transport activity during the Covid-19 pandemic”, the CSO said. Agriculture accounted for 32 per cent of emissions, services 27 per cent, industry 25 per cent with the remaining 16 per cent originating from households.

Breaking down categories, 39 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions were from the services sector that includes aviation, 35 per cent were from Industry and 23 per cent from households. Agriculture, forestry and fishing was the source of 94 per cent of methane and 93 per cent of nitrous oxide emissions.


In the period 2013-2022, greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, forestry and fishing were at their highest in 2021 at 23.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Emissions from industry were at their highest in 2016.

Carbon dioxide emissions from Irish airlines operating abroad have a large impact on the level of emissions attributed to the services sector. Emissions from this sector rose in each year from 2012 to 2019 inclusive, peaking in 2019, at 23.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. The 68 per cent increase in 2022 to 19.8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent was mainly due air transport increasing after the pandemic.

There was a fall of 6 per cent in emissions from households to 11.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent compared with 12.6 million in 2021. Household emissions are mainly due to transport in private cars and heating.

Emissions of all air pollutants decreased in 2022. The household sector was the source of 74 per cent of carbon monoxide emissions; 58 per cent of sulphur oxide emissions and 56 per cent of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions. The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector was the source of 99 per cent of ammonia emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which compiles Ireland’s national greenhouse gas emissions inventory, is due to release 2023 figures in coming weeks.

The CSO focuses on emissions – greenhouse gases and air pollutants – associated with the economy, namely households, industry, services and agriculture, forestry and fishing.

In contrast, the EPA measures “territorial principle emissions” which are reported annually and used to determine whether Ireland has met its legally binding emissions reduction targets. EPA data indicates territorial greenhouse gases fell by 2 per cent to 60.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2022.

“The term resident units is used to describe economic units of a country, such as households and businesses, which have engaged for at least one year in economic activity in that territory,” said CSO statistician Clare O’Hara.

Road transport emissions of an Irish haulier driving in France, for example, are not included in Ireland’s emissions inventory under the territorial principle, but are included under the residence principle. Similarly, emissions arising from an Irish airline flying from England to Italy are assigned to Ireland, while emissions from fuel sales to owners of non-Irish registered vehicles in Ireland are included as territorial emissions.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times