Sunday 25 August 2019

Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise as Ireland set to miss 2020 climate targets

Photo: PA
Photo: PA
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

GREENHOUSE gas emissions continue to rise despite Government pledges to take action on climate change.

New figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that emissions rose 3.5pc, or by just over two million tonnes, last year, with “significant” increases across energy, transport and agriculture.

And the EPA warned that the trends are rising, making Ireland’s efforts to decarbonise the economy “ever more difficult”.

“Achieving Ireland’s long-term decarbonisation objective can only take place with a transformation of our energy, agriculture and transport systems,” director of environmental sustainability at the EPA, Dr Eimear Cotter, said.

“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.”

The figures show that greenhouse gas emissions have “increased significantly” in 2016, following a “substantial increase” in 2015.

National emissions now total 61.19 million tonnes, 3.5pc above 2015 levels and they are now at 2009 levels.

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

In agriculture, emissions rose by 2.7pc.

“The most significant drivers are higher dairy cow numbers ( up 6.2pc) which reflects national plans to expand milk production,” the EPA said. “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.”

Transport emissions are up 3.7pc. or 13pc over the last four years, and show “no sign of abatement” in the short term.

Energy emissions are up 6.1pc, driven by an increase in demand for electricity.

Read More: New Zealand say changes in agriculture key to be carbon neutral by 2050

SN Dr.Cara August (Read-Only).jpg
Dr.Cara Augustenborg of Friends of the Earth Ireland Picture: Tom Burke

Friends of the Earth said the rising levels “confirm the complete lack of political leadership on climate change”.

Head of Science and Communications, Dr Cara Augustenborg said: “Of the handful of EU countries who are going to miss their 2020 climate targets, Ireland is the only member state whose emissions are still rising. These figures confirm the complete lack of political leadership on climate change from this Government.

“The Citizens' Assembly recently recommended a series of practical and positive measures we could take to cut pollution and improve our quality of life. Leo Varadkar and Denis Naughten should now commit to rewriting the Government's climate action plan based on the Citizens' Assembly recommendations."

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