Dairy expansion among key factors behind significant greenhouse gas emissions rise in 2016 - EPA

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Environmental Protection Agency figures released today show that Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased significantly in 2016, following a substantial increase in 2015.

Today’s figures show that total national greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to be 61.19m tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) in 2016.

This is 3.5pc (2.06 Mt CO2 eq) higher than emissions in 2015 and returns greenhouse gas emissions to 2009 levels.

 National emissions have now increased by over 7pc in just two years, indicating that we have not managed to decouple emissions from economic growth.

Dr. Eimear Cotter, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability, said achieving Ireland’s long-term decarbonisation objective can only take place with a transformation of our energy, agriculture and transport systems.

“We need to adopt a much greater sense of urgency about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels while radically improving energy efficiency. In relation to agriculture, Ireland must optimise agricultural production to ensure long term environmental integrity and sustainability.

“The growth in this sector, particularly for dairy and other cattle, points to very significant risks in relation to meeting our decarbonisation objectives.”


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Agriculture emissions increased by 2.7pc in 2016 (0.52 MtCO2eq). The most significant drivers are higher dairy cow numbers (+6.2pc) which reflects national plans to expand milk production. Dairy cow numbers have increased by 22pc in the last four years while greenhouse gas emissions increased by 8pc over that time.

This shows that agricultural production has gained some efficiency over this period but that we have some way to go before full decoupling.

Responding to today's results IFA Environment Chairman Thomas Cooney renewed the Association’s call on Government to introduce further measures to avoid climate fines and reduce Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“It is now clearer than ever that the bad climate deal done by former Environment Minister and Green Party Leader John Gormley will result in Ireland having to pay millions of Euro of fines for breaching its renewable-energy and climate obligations.”

“Agriculture remains the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland, reflecting the importance of the sector to the national economy, with over 300,000 employed directly and indirectly in Ireland’s largest indigenous sector.

However, we produce our food sustainably and know we can do more. A climate activation programme for rural Ireland, which includes the five measures proposed, has the potential to develop a diversification of enterprises and re-energisation the rural economy,” he said.


Meanwhile, transport emissions have increased by 3.7pc in 2016 (0.44 MtCO2eq) and 13pc in the last four years.

This is driven by economic and employment growth and shows no sign of abatement in the short term. The increased use of diesel more than offset a decline in gasoline and biofuel use in 2016.

The Energy Industry emissions increased by 6.1pc (0.72 MtCO2eq) in 2016. This is underpinned by an increase in demand for electricity and more electricity generation from gas.

In 2016, decreases were observed in coal and peat use and also renewables due to less favourable weather conditions. The overall impact is that there is an increase in the emissions intensity of electricity generation for the second year in a row (from 465 g CO2/kWh in 2015 to 483 g CO2/kWh in 2016).

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