Ireland’s 2% emissions drop gets guarded welcome despite ‘horrifying’ rise in transport sector

Opposition parties, experts and campaigners say State remains well behind target

Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan has welcomed the Environmental Protection Agency’s annual report which showed a reduction of almost 2 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions during 2022.

He also argued that the 6 per cent increase in transport emissions was expected as people returned to commuting after the Covid-19 restrictions. Emissions in the sector, he said, remained 4.6 per cent below pre-pandemic levels.

While the figures were broadly welcomed as a move in the right direction, many environmental bodies and political parties said the reductions were small and expressed concern about the significant rise in transport emissions.

Chairwoman of the Climate Change Advisory Council Marie Donnelly said despite the reduction, Ireland was not on track to meet its emissions targets. She praised the results achieved in the best-performing sector, residential homes, and said it came from work on the ground such as retrofitting cold damp homes and eliminating harmful heating fuels.


Turning to transport, Ms Donnelly said those emissions have rebounded because of an absence of active policies in place to maintain low levels. “Investment and support is needed now to incentivise a switch to public transport and an uplift in active travel,” she said.

Social Democrats spokeswoman on climate Jennifer Whitmore described the findings as “disappointing, but not surprising”.

She added: “While any reduction is welcome, we need to be realistic about the scale of the climate crisis and acknowledge that we are not seeing sufficient cuts in our carbon emissions.”


Friends of the Earth chief executive Oisín Coghlan said the decline in 2022 was “only a dip” and what was now needed was dramatic reductions in emissions. He described the rise in the transport sector as “horrifying”.

He also said the Government needed to work hard to ensure reductions caused by non-recurring factors. He noted increases in fossil fuel, and fertiliser, prices caused by the war in Ukraine, as well as a mild winter.

“The Government needs to take steps to actively ensure those reductions are locked in, rather than rebounding as prices ease just as transport emissions did after Covid restrictions eased,” said Mr Coughlan. “Overall, we have used half our carbon budget for the five years from 2021 to 2025 in the first two years. We need much bolder and braver policy change.”

Climate action plan

Stop Climate Chaos co-ordinator Sadhbh O’Neill said the figures were a stark reminder of the challenge facing the State.

“The overall reductions mask worrying increases in the use of gas in power generation (up 12.6 per cent since 2021). The next climate action plan will have to be much more ambitious with new and innovative policies to drive down polluting emissions, including a moratorium on new data centre connections,” she said.

Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard said the 1.2 decrease in agricultural emissions showed that farmers were making an effort.

“This puts an end to suggestions from some quarters that Ireland’s emissions are increasing and, in particular, that farmers are not doing their bit. The reduction in emissions from the agricultural sector is a direct result of changes in practice,” he said.

Prof Cara Augustenborg, a member of the Climate Change Advisory Council, called for public transport options to be faster, cheaper and easier than driving a car. Electric vehicles are not going to be the sole solution to our transport issues, she argued.

“We’re really going to have to be about much more public transport built rapidly. We have to build 50 years’ worth of transport infrastructure in 10 years. So we really need to accelerate the public transport infrastructure,” she told Newstalk Breakfast.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times