Ireland’s emissions problems likely to follow it into the next decade

State’s failure to reverse increasing CO2 emissions will do huge reputational damage

Ireland’s infamous climate laggard status, arising from its failure to reverse ever-increasing carbon emissions, looks like persisting into the next decade.

The imminent “compliance costs” associated with missing international commitments that apply from next year – having to buy carbon credits from other EU member states already reducing emissions – will attract big headlines. And the reputational damage for a supposed “green country” will be considerable.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) experts politely refuse to speculate on what the financial cost might be. They simply provide figures to the EU and the UN.

It is a straightforward system: a country is given an emissions allocation for the period 2013 to 2020 – also known as a carbon budget. Ireland exceeded its greenhouse gases limit by more than 5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent last year and surpassed its allocation for the third year running.


Reaching the 2020 goal is a lost cause, and the State is not on the right trajectory to meet more demanding 2030 targets

For the whole period, Ireland is permitted 338 million tonnes, but is likely to emit 348 million tonnes. Currently, the State has the fourth-highest per capita emissions in the EU.

Not energy efficient

A booming economy, poor public transport infrastructure, a rapidly expanding dairy sector and housing stock that largely is not energy-efficient add up to to a distinctly Irish emissions problem.

This is compounded by businesses, manufacturing and heavy industry failing to embrace less carbon-intensive options.

The bottom line is that reaching the 2020 goal is a lost cause, and the State is not on the right trajectory to meet more demanding 2030 targets, or even “net-zero” by 2050.

Ireland is not in tandem with what others are doing and not living up to the commitment that all will play their part in carbon mitigation – notably wealthy countries.

That performance has grave environmental implications, undermining the ability to keep the rise in global temperatures to within 2 degrees – never mind the Paris Agreement aspiration of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The EPA regards the Government’s climate action plan as “a big game-changer”, provided it is backed by swift implementation and understanding of what’s needed to deliver on its ambitious goals.