Emissions from Irish power-generation and industrial companies increased by 15 per cent in 2021, according to preliminary analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
This compares with an increase of about 9.1 per cent across Europe.
The increase in emissions amounted to 2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent and was largely due to increased carbon intensity of Ireland’s electricity production last year.
The increase provides further evidence of how difficult it will be to halve Irish emissions by 2030 as committed to in the Government’s national climate action plan.
"Several factors came together to compound this – a decrease in wind power availability, some relatively modern gas-fired plants being offline and an increase in electricity demand," the EPA concluded. Older plants, including the coal-fired power station at Moneypoint, Co Clare, had to be used to ensure sufficient power was available.
The data released relates to greenhouse gases emitted by industries that are part of the EU emission trading system (ETS), which the EPA monitors as the competent authority in Ireland.
In the Republic, 105 major industrial and institutional sites were required to report their emissions for 2021 by March 31st under the ETS. These include sites operating in the power-generation, cement, lime, and oil-refining sectors. Also included are large companies in sectors such as food and drink, pharmaceuticals and semi-conductor manufacturers.
"Ireland's ETS sector delivered a decrease in emissions from 2017 to 2019, largely due to the higher level of renewables on the national grid, and again in 2020 because of Covid-19," said EPA director general Laura Burke.
She added: “The increase we are seeing for 2021 . . . is disappointing and is a reminder of the need for policies and decisions which support sustained emissions reductions in power generation and industrial emissions. The challenges faced in the power-generation sector are in sharp focus at the moment. We must ensure we are taking decisions now which recognise the urgency of the climate change challenge and that will deliver reductions in emissions.”
Aside from power generation, the increase in industrial emissions collectively was 7 per cent, cement industries recorded a 17 per cent increase overall, while emissions from pharmachem industries increased by 3 per cent.
Aviation emissions from flights within the European Economic Area increased by 11 per cent compared with 2020, amounting to 5.3 million tonnes, but this is still much lower than the pre-pandemic levels of 12.8 million tonnes.
Some restructuring of routes has taken place and the operators of the new routes may not be reporting to Ireland, but emissions data reflect that recovery of the sector was slow in 2021, the EPA noted.