A SHARP rise in the size of the national herd coupled with use of cheap coal to fire power stations has resulted in an increase in dangerous greenhouse gas emissions.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has this morning called on the government to raise the carbon tax on more-polluting fuels including coal to help Ireland move to a low-carbon economy and prevent climate change.
The figures show that greenhouse gas emissions rose by 1pc last year to 57.92 million tonnes, the first increase in six years.
The primary drivers were the energy sector, up almost 6pc, agriculture (3pc) and industry and commerce (1.6pc). Emissions fell in the residential (almost 6pc) and transport sectors (3.5pc).
The higher emissions from the energy sector reflect an increase in the use of coal in electricity generation, which is underpinned by lower coal and carbon prices. Agriculture emissions rose as animal numbers, particularly cattle and sheep, increased in line with expansion of the sector under Food Harvest 2020.
Cattle numbers rose 4.4pc, and sheep by 9pc, which fuelled the increases.
“Low coal and carbon prices are encouraging a shift to coal-fired electricity generation which has significant implications for meeting long-term emissions reduction goals,” EPA deputy director general Dara Lynott said, adding we would meet our international commitments to tackle climate change.
“However, increases in emissions in 2012 show that environmental pressures remain, and will increase, particularly as the economy starts to recover. The figures underline the requirement to decouple emissions from economic growth. They also point to the urgent need for a higher carbon price which would provide an incentive for using less CO2 intensive energy sources, such as natural gas.”
“Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will require concerted policy action to develop a positive and long-term response to climate change. Individual responsibility and behavioural change also have an important role to play. Options such as greater efficiency at farm level, travelling less by car and reducing energy use and energy loss in households all offer potential to deliver emission reductions.”
Agriculture remains the single largest contributor to overall emissions, at 32.1pc of the total. It is followed by the energy sector, primarily power generation, at 21.9pc and transport at 18.8pc.
The remainder is made up by industry and commercial at 14.7pc, the residential sector at 10.7pc and waste at 1.8pc.