Further greenhouse gas emissions rise confirms Ireland as outlier in EU

File image.

Caroline O'Doherty

Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions shot up by more than 12pc in the final months of last year – the complete opposite to most other EU countries.

The latest figures confirm Ireland as the outlier among the 27 member states, with emissions heading resolutely in the wrong direction.

It is another worrying indication that the emission reduction targets agreed by Government and set by law are becoming further out of reach.

Just four EU member states saw their emissions rise in the final quarter of 2022 and Ireland’s increase was twice the rate of the next nearest country, Latvia.

Ireland’s 12.3pc increase was accompanied by a rise in economic growth in the country, as measured by GDP (gross domestic product).

However, 23 other EU countries recorded a fall in emissions and 16 of those achieved the reduction while their GDP was growing.

Overall, the EU emitted 938 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the quarter, a 4pc decrease on the same period in 2021.

The reduction came despite the economy growing by 1.5pc compared with the same quarter in 2021.

Decoupling economic growth from emissions has proved one of the most difficult aspects of climate action policies, so the late 2022 figures are promising.

In Ireland, however, emissions grew marginally more than GDP.

A spokesperson for Environment Minister Eamon Ryan played down the figures.

"The Eurostat figures are not in any way related to real data from the Environmental Protection Agency which will be published in the near future," the spokesperson said.

"They represent an attempt to estimate changes in greenhouse gases based on economic activity, including GDP growth.

"However, using GDP as a measure can have a distorting effect in Ireland due to the large number of multinationals based in Ireland."

Emission rises were even higher here earlier in the year – hitting 20pc in the first quarter of the year compared to the first quarter of 2021.

That was explained away to some extent by the rebound after Covid but the increases continued throughout the year, hitting 17pc for the third quarter.

By the end of 2022, Ireland’s per capita emissions were twice that of the average EU citizen.

Ireland’s own final inventory of emissions for the year is not due for publication until July but it is likely to confirm the trends in the Eurostat analysis.

The Climate Change Advisory Council has written to the Taoiseach twice in the last two months, expressing concern about the pace of action to reduce emissions.

In the second letter sent last week, council chair Marie Donnelly warned that the half-way point in the country’s first ‘carbon budget’ was imminent.

The first carbon budget spans the five-year period 2021-2025 inclusive and requires an average 4.8pc reduction in greenhouse gas emissions each year.

So far it appears that no reduction has been achieved.