IRELAND will miss legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in just three years' time.
In a stark warning, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that even in a "best-case" scenario where all government plans were implemented, we would not reduce emissions from transport and agriculture sufficiently by 2016 – and face the prospect of being fined by the EU.
Ireland is obliged to reduce emissions by 20pc from 1990 levels by 2020, but a report says we will breach our EU obligations from 2016 onwards.
The State is expected to produce 45.3 million tonnes of carbon this year from agriculture, transport, residential, industry, energy and the waste sectors.
This is expected to fall to 37.5 million tonnes by 2020, but current projects suggest at least five million additional tonnes will be produced.
A senior EU official in charge of climate change told the Irish Independent that member states which missed the targets would be fined.
Strong projected growth in emissions from transport and agriculture are the key contributors. They currently comprise 50pc of all emissions, but are expected to rise to 78pc by 2020.
The 'Ireland's Greenhouse Gas Emission Projections 2012-2030' report says while we have met targets to date, this is largely due to the recession.
"Ireland cannot rely on recession to meet our long-term carbon reduction requirements and needs to develop as a low carbon and resource efficient economy," it said.
"Significant reductions are needed in the transport and agriculture sectors."
EPA spokeswoman Dr Eimear Cotter said changes in farming practices would help reduce emissions in the agriculture sector, along with a move to more fuel-efficient cars and more walking and cycling for transport.
"Transport and agriculture are the two key sectors," she said.
"Electric vehicles and alternative fuels like natural gas in freight vehicles have a lot of potential. Agriculture is going to come down to farming practices and using resources more efficiently."