Dairy expansion drives increase as ammonia emissions continue to rise

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Ireland’s emissions are going in the wrong direction for people to benefit from cleaner air, as ammonia emissions continue to rise with dairy herd numbers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published a new report on emission levels for the five main air pollutants. The figures show that emissions of three of the five air pollutants increased - ammonia, nitrogen oxides and non-methane volatile organic compounds.

Emissions of ammonia have been increasing since 2011 and were above the specified EU emission limit in 2016 for the first time.

This latest information from the EPA shows that Ireland exceeded its emission limits for ammonia for the first time in 2016 and emissions of this gas are increasing.

The agriculture sector accounts for virtually all (99pc) ammonia emissions in Ireland arising from the application of fertilisers - 40m tonnes of animal manures are used annually together with 300,000 tonnes of nitrogen in fertilisers.

Stephen Treacy, Senior Manager with the EPA, said ammonia limits have been breached due to the rapid expansion of dairy and beef production in Ireland in recent years.

He said this underlines the challenge in designing appropriate policies that protect our environment in a growing economy.

Emissions of two of the other air pollutants, nitrogen oxides and non-methane volatile organic compounds, while in compliance with EU limits for now, are increasing.

Also Read

Emissions of sulphur dioxide continue to decrease.  These were well below the required EU emission limits, substantially due to the use of lower sulphur content fuels in electricity generation and transport.

Particulate matter emissions declined in 2016. Future emissions will depend largely on the quantity and quality of solid fuel used in the residential and commercial sectors.

Transport is the principal source of nitrogen oxide emissions, contributing approximately 41 per cent of the total in 2016. Agriculture is the second biggest source, contributing approximately 29.6 per cent of the 2016 total, mainly due to synthetic fertiliser application and emissions from urine and dung deposited by grazing animals.

The figures published today show that Ireland’s level of sulphur dioxide continues to be well below the EU emission limits. The reduction in the emission of this pollutant is positive for the environment, public health and the economy. The main sources of sulphur dioxide emissions are the power generation, residential and commercial sectors. Effective licencing and enforcement by the EPA has contributed to reductions in these pollutants as well as the use of cleaner fuels in power generation and transport.

Online Editors