Ireland closer to Kyoto emissions target due to economic slump


THE FIRST official confirmation the economic downturn has led to a dramatic reduction in greenhouse emissions in Ireland will be announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today.

The new projections show Ireland’s emissions will be much closer at the end of 2012 to the ambitious targets set out in the Kyoto protocol, due to the slowdown in economic activity.

In recent years, Ireland’s emissions have come close to 70 million tonnes of CO2 per annum, some eight million tonnes above the Kyoto target. And only last September, the EPA projected that Ireland would have to purchase 3.6 million tonnes per annum under the terms of the Kyoto protocol.

But this latest update only six months later indicates a substantial reduction of more than 50 per cent on those projections. Now, according to the EPA, the purchasing requirement will be much lower, between 1.3 and 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 per annum.

According to the EPA, the figures reflect reduced activity due to the economic downturn. Key to this has been new research conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). It produced an “economic shock analysis” which predicted the economy will contract by 7 per cent between 2008 and 2010, before returning to growth. That contraction will lead to lower emissions.

“Even with this, and with all plans and measures implemented on time and delivering to their fullest extent, there is still an ongoing challenge for Ireland to meet its obligations under both the Kyoto protocol and under the EU 2020 binding targets,” the EPA projection states.

It also says agriculture, energy and transport remain the three sectors where emissions are highest, though in all three areas they are falling.

The director general of the EPA, Dr Mary Kelly, said the projections today show the impact of the slowdown in the economy.

“However, simply because emissions are reducing due to the economic downturn must not lead to complacency. It is imperative that Ireland decouples greenhouse gas emissions from economic activity.

“At the same time, we need to implement all the proposed policy measures in full and on time, so that, when a return to growth occurs, we do not simply end up in even greater difficulties. Ireland needs to prepare for low carbon economic growth,” said Dr Kelly.

The EPA will also publish projections in relation to the European Union’s new commitment to reduce emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 compared to 2005 levels.

The findings show this target will be more onerous, as it includes only the non-European Trading Scheme sectors including transport and agriculture, where Irish emissions are particularly high.