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Carbon output from big industry is down but most firms struggling to cut emissions

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The Moneypoint power station

The Moneypoint power station

The Moneypoint power station

Most of the country's carbon-­intensive companies are still struggling to rein in their emissions, latest figures show.

While, collectively, the industries with the greatest fossil-­fuel dependence managed to reduce their emissions last year, the reductions were for the most part modest and were concentrated in a few key operators.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the reductions were welcome but needed to be achieved across the board.

Dr Maria Martin, EPA senior manager, said: "We need to see consistent reductions in emissions across all sectors to reach our goal of a low-carbon economy."

Electricity production recorded the biggest reduction, mainly due to the winding down of ESB's coal-powered plant at Moneypoint and the various peat-powered plants in the midlands.

Emissions from Moneypoint alone dropped by almost two-thirds from 1.9 million tonnes of carbon in 2018 to 681,047 tonnes in 2019.

Wind energy took up some of the slack, increasing its contribution to national electricity production to 32.5pc, but extra output was also sought from the oil and gas-burning power plants at Tarbert, Huntstown, Whitegate and Tynagh which all saw their emissions grow as a result.

The impact of Moneypoint's wind-down is so large, however, that overall emissions from electricity production fell by 12pc.

Reductions in other industries were more modest and collectively came to 3pc.

Cement industries recorded a 2pc drop in emissions but that was mainly due to reductions in two firms; dairy and food producers saw a 3pc drop but that was also mostly down to two companies.

Pharmaceutical and chemical companies collectively achieved just a 0.4pc drop and most individual operators increased their emissions slightly.

As reported earlier this month, the airline industry went against trends and increased emissions by 2.8pc. Ryanair was by far the biggest contributor, emitting 10.4 million tonnes of carbon, more than half a million tonnes more than in 2018.

No other company came close to that scale of emissions. ESB's total from six plants was 2.6 million tonnes.

One of the largest single-­plant companies assessed was Aughinish Alumina which emitted 1.2 million tonnes, down about 14,000 tonnes on 2018.

In total, 103 large industrial plants and operators in Ireland had their emissions assessed as part of the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) which records their emissions separately from the countries where they are based.

The Irish members of the scheme were collectively responsible for emitting 14.7 million tonnes of carbon last year, down from 15.51 million in 2018 and a fall of almost 25pc over the last decade.

The rest of the country collectively emitted around 60 million tonnes last year.

Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton said he was pleased with the figures, particularly given that last year was a period of strong economic growth.

"These results show that it is possible to break the link between economic progress and carbon emissions," he said.

"Last year the economy grew by 6pc but our electricity and major industrial emissions fell by 8.7pc. It is welcome progress, but we must do more."

The EPA said Ireland's ETS emission trends were in line with the rest of Europe.

Ireland and the EU is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Irish Independent