Ireland to fall short of carbon-cutting targets, even with extra measures – EPA

Despite climate action initiatives in NDP, Ireland will fail to meet commitments

Ireland is set to fall far short of all of its carbon emissions reduction targets for 2020 and 2030 despite climate action measures in the National Development Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed.

The latest EPA projections published on Thursday indicate decarbonisation of transport and agriculture, in particular, will not go anywhere near the level Ireland has committed to. As a consequence additional mitigation measures will be needed, it concludes.

As dairy cattle numbers are set to continue to grow, the EPA shows agricultural emissions will rise. Emissions associated with transport are also predicted to increase in the short term due to the level of diesel consumption by cars and freight.

“In none of the scenarios are we meeting the 2030 or 2020 targets,” said Stephen Treacy, senior scientific officer at the EPA’s office of environmental sustainability. Even where sectoral targets are close to being met, it is dependent on higher fossil fuel prices.


The designated authority for reporting Ireland’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions projections, warns there is “a significant gap to meeting Ireland’s EU effort sharing targets, regarding 2020 and 2030 commitment periods”.

"Our projections show that, in the long term, there is a projected decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, as a result of climate mitigation policies and measures in the National Development Plan," said EPA director Laura Burke. "However, to meet its EU targets for 2030 and achieve national policy ambitions, Ireland will need full implementation of those measures, plus additional measures in future plans."

Ireland has committed to a legally-binding reduction of 30 per cent of emissions in transport, agriculture, light industry and the built environment, which are classified under the EU’s non-ETS (emissions trading sector). Large-scale industries, including power generation and aviation, which are big carbon polluters, come under the separate ETS.

Latest projections for 2018 to 2040 include the following findings:

Agriculture: Emissions will increase steadily mainly due to increases in livestock numbers. Potential mitigation measures identified by Teagasc are not included but will be important to meeting targets.

Transport: Growth in emissions continues to be projected until at least 2022, even with relatively high fuel prices and electric vehicle uptake as proposed in the NDP. Should fuel prices remain at a relatively low level for an extended time emissions could continue to increase steadily until 2030.

Energy: Fossil fuels such as coal, peat and gas continue to be key contributors to emissions in power generation, but reductions are achievable by ending coal-fired power generation and peat use, while moving to higher levels of renewable energy sources as proposed in the NDP.

Measures to be announced in the upcoming Government plan were not included, al though Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton has said it will deliver “a step change in our emissions performance” – and include an ambitious commitment that 70 per cent of electricity needs will come from renewable sources by 2030.

The EPA produces projections on an annual basis for all sectors in collaboration with State and other bodies including the ESRI, Teagasc and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

Emissions are projected using two scenarios: “with existing measures”, which assumes no additional policies and measures beyond those already in place by the end of 2017 are implemented, and “with additional measures”, which assumes further implementation of Government renewable and energy efficiency policies and measures including those in the NDP.

With additional measures, emissions are estimated to decrease by 0.4 per cent and 10 per cent by 2020 and 2030 respectively. Agriculture emissions will increase by 3.2 per cent in the 2018-2030 period, while transport emissions will reduce by 1.2 per cent, far short of EU targets. In contrast, residential and waste emissions will reduce by 20.7 per cent and 52.2 per cent respectively.

Green Party spokesman on climate change Cllr David Healy said the EPA forecasting an increase in overall emissions by 2030 compared to current levels of between 6 and 10 per cent was an indictment of Government inaction.

He added: “We need to make the fundamental changes in transport, agriculture, housing, and energy...Further delay will not only contribute even more emissions to the atmosphere, but will make the process of transition more difficult.”

The projections show the cost of non-compliance with EU non-traded sector targets in 2020 is expected to be €250 million. The cost in 2030 is expected to be in a range between €1 billion and € 2.5 billion. In both cases, they were conservative estimates, he said.

Head of policy with the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition Catherine Devitt said given the absence of any focused decarbonisation plan to date, “these projections, although dismal, are not surprising”.

In spite of all the action plans promised by the Government for 2020 to 2030, “Ireland is still way off target to achieving its 2030 obligations. Clearly, these plans are not working”, she added. “Even under the ‘with additional measures scenario’, we’ve achieved very little in terms of emissions reductions since 1990. Yet, we have to get to net-zero emissions for 2050, if we are to remain with a global temperature increase limit of 1.5 degrees.”

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

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