The Irish Times view on the latest carbon emission figurs: a bit done, a lot more to do

The latest data on Irish greenhouse gas emissions, showing a 6.8 per cent decline last year to the lowest level in 30 years, showed policy changes can have an impact

Wind turbines on the Bog of Allen in County Offaly: greater use of renewables like wind in generating electricity contributed to the 2023 fall in Irish emissions. ( Photo: Eamonn Farrell/

The latest data on Irish greenhouse gas emissions, showing a 6.8 per cent decline last year to the lowest level in 30 years, brought palpable relief in Government. It indicates that policy changes are finally working in tackling stubbornly high greenhouse gas levels. Combined with effective actions within sectors that are the worst carbon polluters, it offers the real prospect of building momentum towards decarbonising Ireland. With the State moving towards sustained reductions after a period of economic growth, rising population and agricultural expansion, it is a notable achievement.

The figures represent a big political win for the Green Party after a torrid time in the recent elections, as agreement on halving emissions by 2030 – in line with climate science and more demanding EU targets – was a critical ask for them going into Government. They desperately needed to see progress.

Former party leader and Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions figures show that Irish people do care about the climate crisis. Progress will also make public buy-in easier, in turn assisting the scale of transformation needed in the years ahead. Worryingly, however, their wish to do more is not helped by a general lack of understanding of what actions work most effectively for them, as individuals, and their communities.

Reduced fossil use in power generation and home heating, as well as lower application of nitrogen fertiliser in agriculture, had a big impact last year. The outcome is an antidote to climate doom and anxiety, though it sits alongside an uneasy realisation that the negatives of an overheating world are increasingly impacting locally.


Last year’s figures represent a small win in the context of what is required. Ireland remains well off track in terms of meeting national and EU commitments. Bolder policy change and faster implementation across Government departments and State agencies are vital to staying within legally-binding limits up to 2025 and 2030.

In May, the EPA noted that planned Government action is projected to cut emissions by less than 30 per cent by 2030, when the benchmark in the climate Act is a 51 per cent reduction.

Poor policy delivery remains a key issue. The public is unlikely to forgive politicians if they sit on their hands. More immediate issues also arise. Failure to adhere to carbon budget restrictions up to 2025 would leave ground to be made up later. Enforced curtailments in the worst performing sectors would be needed, while EU fines in the form of compliance costs are likely to exceed ¤5 billion come 2030. The resulting fiscal restraints would curtail spending options for future governments at a time when the environmental sins of the past would demand more radical and costly climate action.