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Greenhouse gas emissions down - thanks to recession

Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions fell for the first time in 20 years because of the economic downturn, scientists revealed today.

The recession led to an unprecedented drop in carbon dioxide fumes pumped out by cars, factories, power plants and homes - down almost 8pc last year.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said emissions fell in every sector, with farms still the largest CO2 polluters.

But despite the successes, Ireland is still about 10pc above its Kyoto targets.

EPA director general Mary Kelly warned that the country should not be using a downturn to keep to its commitments to tackling climate change.

"We should not rely on a recession to meet our targets for the future," she warned.

Dr Kelly said the improvements in CO2 levels should be used to embed fundamental reductions and ultimately meet very stringent European limits for 2020.

"The magnitude of the reduction in Ireland's annual greenhouse gas emissions in 2009 is unprecedented," she said.

"In particular, the 20pc cut in emissions from the industry and commercial sector reflects the impact which the severe economic recession is having on industrial output in Ireland."

A breakdown of emissions showed the amount of CO2 from industry and commerce fell by 20pc, energy was down by 11pc, and transport by 8pc. The cement manufacturing business was down 38pc, the EPA said.

The study found that agriculture remains the single biggest polluting sector, making up almost a third of the total, but experts also noted that emissions from farms have consistently fallen since 1998.

Elsewhere, residential emissions fell by almost 1pc while CO2 from the waste sector was down by 4pc.

EPA programme manager Ken Macken said: "While some of these reflect the impact of the many improvements which have already been taken to reduce our emissions, it is important to ensure further measures are taken in order to meet our emission limits for 2020 and beyond."

The EPA concluded that total national greenhouse gas emissions were estimated to be €62.32m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent last year - 6.2 million tonnes above the Kyoto target.

PA Media