Environmental Indicators

Ireland's Environment web resource is managed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Data for environmental indicators are provided by a range of partners and aims to draw on the most up-to-date openly published data.  Users can download this data in a variety of formats.  The current environmental status/trend of each indicator is also given, where appropriate.  Choose an indicator from the list below to explore in more detail.

 

AirStatus / Trend
Air Emissions: Nitrogen Oxides red face
Air Quality: Ground Level Ozone green face
Air Quality: Nitrogen Dioxide green face
Air Quality: Particulate Matter PM10  amber face

Air Emissions - Nitrogen Oxides

Emissions of NOx are currently well above the 2010 limit in the EU Directive on National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) and are expected to remain high in the short term, largely due to the difficulty in achieving significant reductions in emissions from road traffic.  Ireland is non-compliant with 2010 national emission reduction commitments as a result of applying improved emission inventory methods updated in accordance with scientific knowledge.  Consequently, under the NEC Directive 2016/2284 Ireland is allowed to use flexibility mechanisms to adjust NOx emissions.  With the use of these flexibilities, Ireland exceeds the emission ceiling in 2010 and is compliant with the NOx emission ceiling from 2011 onwards.  Ireland has new reduction commitments of 49% for 2020 and 69% for 2030 compared to 2005 levels.  Further information can be found in Ireland’s Air Pollutant Emissions 1990-2030 report.

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Air Quality - Ground Level Ozone

Ground level ozone is an air pollutant which is formed by the chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC), in the presence of strong sunlight. It has a global background concentration, which also has natural sources. Ground level ozone pollution episodes are infrequent in Ireland but may occur when we have unusually hot, dry and stable weather conditions. These episodes may also be triggered by pollution episodes in the rest of Europe, because depending on weather conditions, ground level ozone pollution may be transported across to Ireland from mainland Europe.

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Air Quality - Nitrogen Dioxide

Nitrogen dioxide was measured at 15 stations in 2017. Concentrations of nitrogen dioxide were below the limit value at all sites, however, they are approaching the limit value in some large urban areas.  Annual concentrations measured at suburban and rural sites are significantly lower than those measured at urban sites.

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Air Quality - PM10

PM10 was measured at 18 stations in 2017. All stations were compliant with the EU annual limit value, however, 16 stations were above the WHO 24-hour mean guideline value.  Levels were highest in large towns in Ireland due largely to the burning of solid fuel.  In urban areas, there is potential for some additional emissions from traffic.

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ClimateStatus / Trend
Greenhouse Gas Emissions: By Sector amber face
Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Projections to 2020 red face
Effort Sharing Decision Targets  Status for Indicator at Amber

Greenhouse Gas Emissions By Sector

Ireland's emissions profile has changed considerably since 1990, with the contribution from transport more than doubling and the share from Energy industries reducing since 2001. Agriculture is the largest source of emissions, representing 34 per cent of total national emissions in 2018. Both the transport and energy industries sectors represent 20 and 17 per cent respectively, of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. The transport sector has been the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, showing a 10 per cent increase between 2013 and 2018. Further information about Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions is available on our website.

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GHG Emissions Projections to 2020

The 2020 EU Effort Sharing target commits Ireland to reducing emissions from those sectors that are not covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme (agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, non-energy intensive industry and waste) to 20 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020.  Ireland breached its annual obligation target for the first time in 2016 and again in 2017 and 2018.  While there is over-achievement of annual obligations in the early years of the compliance period (2013-2020), this will not be sufficient to allow Ireland to cumulatively meet its compliance obligations.  Current policies and measures to 2020, including targets for energy efficiency in our homes and businesses and increasing renewable fuel use in transport and heating, will not be sufficient to meet 2020 emission reduction targets. 

See further detail in the EPA report Greenhouse Gas Emissions Projections 2019 to 2040.

Further information about Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions is available on our website.

 

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Effort Sharing Decision

Ireland’s non-Emissions Trading System (ETS) greenhouse gas emissions for 2013, 2014 and 2015 are in compliance with the European Union’s Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) targets. However, Ireland is not in compliance for 2016, 2017 and 2018 exceeding the annual limits by 0.30 Mt CO2 eq, 2.94 Mt CO2 eq and 5.59 Mt CO2 eq respectively.

This Decision sets 2020 targets for non-ETS sector emissions and annual binding limits for the period 2013-2020. Ireland’s target is to reduce ESD emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels. Further information about Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions is available on our website.

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WasteStatus / Trend
Biodegradable Waste Diversion from Landfill Smiley_Green
Household Waste per Capita Status for Indicator at Amber
Recovery and Disposal of Municipal Waste amber face
Recovery and Recycling of Packaging Waste green face

Biodegradable Waste Diversion from Landfill

Landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) results in high emissions of methane which is a greenhouse gas and a potential source of odour nuisance. There are targets under the Landfill Directive to divert BMW from landfill. Ireland has met all targets to date and is on track to meet the final diversion target (due July 2020). Ireland’s national waste statistics can be found here.

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Household Waste per capita

Household waste produced (per capita) remained largely unchanged between 2010 and 2017. In 2017, Ireland generated 1.5 Mtonnes of household waste and an average 321 kg was produced per capita. Ireland’s national waste statistics can be found here.

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Recovery and Disposal of Municipal Waste

Municipal waste is made up of household waste, as well as commercial waste that is similar in nature to household waste.  In 2017, Ireland generated 2.8 Mtonnes of municipal waste.  Over three quarters (77 per cent) of municipal waste was recovered in 2017, this is an increase from 74 per cent in 2016.  However, the recycling rate was 40 per cent, this is decrease from 41 per cent in 2016, indicating Ireland’s recycling rate for municipal waste has stagnated in recent years. Ireland’s national waste statistics can be found here.

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Recovery and Recyling of Packaging Waste

Ireland has been compliant with all statutory packaging recovery targets set since 2001.  Our recycling rate in 2017 is 66 per cent and our recovery rate is 87 per cent, exceeding the EU targets of 55 and 60 per cent percent. Ireland’s national waste statistics can be found here.

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NatureStatus / Trend
Conservation Status of Listed Habitats red face
Conservation Status of Listed Species Status for Indicator at Amber
Threatened Species Status for Indicator at Amber
Countryside Birds Status for Indicator at Amber

Conservation Status of Listed Habitats

The majority of Ireland's habitats that are listed under the Habitats Directive were reported in 2013 to be of inadequate or bad conservation status . Only 9 per cent of listed habitats are considered to be in a favourable state.

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Conservation Status of Listed Species

In Ireland 52 per cent of species listed under the Habitats Directive are in a favourable state. These include most species of bat, dolphin and whale. The number of species considered declining in status is low. Aquatic species are most at risk, although species such as the otter and especially the frog are doing very well. The natterjack toad is assessed as “bad but improving”.

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Threatened Species

Recent red lists indicate that more than a third of Irish bee species and non-marine mollusc species are threatened. In addition, over 15 per cent of Irish water beetle species, butterfly species and dragonflies and damselflies are threatened.

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Changes in Countryside Birds 1998 – 2016

There is evidence from the Countryside Bird Survey (1998-2016) that many countryside birds have fared quite well over the last number of years. Overall, twenty species showed increasing trends, seventeen species remained relatively stable and the remaining sixteen declined. Greatest increases were seen in Blackcap and Goldfinch. Greatest declines were in Grey Wagtail, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit and Greenfinch.

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Environment & WellbeingStatus / Trend
Air Quality - Particulate Matter PM2.5 Status for Indicator at Amber
Bathing Water Quality Smiley_Green
Drinking Water Quality Status for Indicator at Amber
Urban Wastewater Treatment Status for Indicator at Amber

Air Quality - Particulate Matter 2.5

PM2.5 was measured at 9 stations in 2015 and all concentrations observed were below the EU limit value. However concentrations were above the tighter WHO air quality guideline values. Ireland is also required to reduce PM2.5 average concentrations by 10 per cent by 2020. PM2.5 is considered a good indicator of man-made particulate matter with the main sources being solid fuel burning and traffic emissions.

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Bathing Water Quality

Water quality at identified bathing areas remains high with 95% meeting or exceeding the minimum required standard of Sufficient in 2019. Bathing waters are assessed and categorised into four main classifications based on the level of compliance with standards relating to E. coli and intestinal enterococci and using four years of data. These classifications are Excellent, Good, Sufficient and Poor. Almost three quarters of all identified bathing waters (73%) were classified as Excellent in 2019 and an additional 16% of bathing areas were classified as Good. Five bathing waters were classified as Poor in 2019. Management measures are required to bring all Poor bathing waters up to at least Sufficient status.

Find out more about bathing water quality on the EPA's BEACHES website and in the 2019 Bathing Water Quality in Ireland report.

  • Excellent Water Quality
  • Good Water Quality
  • Sufficient Water Quality – compliant with minimum required EU standard
  • Poor Water Quality – not compliant with minimum required EU standard
  • New - identified bathing waters where classification is not yet possible as the minimum number of samples (16) have not yet been taken since identification
  • Changes - improvement in quality has occurred due to management measures but classification is not yet possible as the minimum number of samples (16) have not yet been taken since the changes occurred

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Drinking Water Quality (Public Supplies)

In 2019, the quality of public water supplies remained very good with >99% of samples complying with mirobiological and chemical standards. At the end of 2019, 21 boil notices were in place affecting 14,632 people. This is in comparison to the 10 boil notices affecting 897 people at the end of 2018. The majority (59 out of a total of 67) of all boil water notices in 2019 were 'long-term', that is they were in place for longer than 30 days. However, a number of these “long term” notices were due to inadequate disinfection, and Irish Water addressed this issue at the majority of those supplies in 2019. There were 52 supplies (supplying water to 1,128,847 consumers) on the Remedial Action List at the end of 2019, a reduction from 63 supplies at the end of 2018. However, it is important to note that the population affected has increased from 555,689 at the end of 2018 to 1,128,847 at the end of 2019. This increase in population can mainly be attributed to the operational issues experience at the Leixlip Water Treatment Plant in 2019, which serves over 600,000 people. Irish Water need to continue to progress remedial works on the outstanding 'at risk' supplies so that the threat of long-term boil water notices and other chemical failures is eliminated. Based on monitoring results, the quality of the water in our public supplies is very good. However, the vulnerabilities in the second largest water treatment plant in the country highlight a lack of resilience in our water supplies. It is of paramount importance that Irish Water take action to ensure the resilience of supplies.
 

 

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Urban Waste Water Treatment

Waste water treatment at 21 of Ireland's 169 large urban areas did not meet EU treatment standards in 2018. Untreated waste water from 35 towns and villages is released into the environment every day. Substantial and sustained investment is required to upgrade waste water treatment systems, prevent pollution and protect public health.

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WaterStatus / Trend
Nitrates in Groundwater Status for Indicator at Amber
River Water Quality - Phosphates Status for Indicator at Amber
Coastal Water Quality Smiley_Green
Transitional Water Quality Smiley_Red
 Lake Water Quality  amber face
River Water Quality Smiley_Red

Nitrates in Groundwater

Elevated nitrate concentration in groundwater continues to be an issue, particularly in the southeast and south of the country. It may contribute to pollution of surface waters and affect drinking waters.

Note historic concentrations may differ from those previously reported due to the addition to or removal from the network of monitoring points and their associated data.

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River Water Quality - Phosphates

High phosphate concentrations in rivers can cause nutrient pollution. Concentrations greater than 0.035 mg/l P can cause harm to other plants and animals. Nearly a third (35.8%) of river sites have too much phosphate in them (concentrations greater than 0.035 mg/l) while the remaining two thirds (64.2%) of sites have phosphate concentrations less than 0.035 mg/l and have satisfactory phosphorus nutrient condition. The areas with the highest phosphate concentrations are mainly in north-eastern counties, some parts of the midlands, and in the lower Shannon catchment, while rivers in the west and north-west generally show the lowest concentrations. A recent review of phosphate trends covering 2013-2018 indicates that a quarter of river sites are experiencing increasing phosphate concentrations.  

Average phosphate concentrations of less than 0.025 mg/l P and less than 0.035 mg/l P have been established in Ireland as legally binding environmental quality standards (EQS) to support the achievement of high and good ecological status respectively.

  • <0.025 mg/lP - Meets High EQ
  • S0.025 - 0.035 mg/lP - Meets Good EQS
  • >0.035 mg/lP - Moderate

 

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Coastal Water Quality 2013-2018

Coastal waters are positioned at the interface between land and sea and as such are exposed to a wide range of human pressures. These pressures can include discharges from industrial and municipal waste water treatment plants, inputs from diffuse agricultural sources, morphological alterations associated with harbour and port activities and accidental or in some cases intentional discharges from marine vessels.  A total of 45 water bodies were assessed between 2013 and 2018. Of these, 80% were in good or high ecological status, accounting for 93% of the total area assessed with the remaining percentage of waters in moderate status. The overall status indicates that our coastal waters, except for some nutrient enriched areas along the south coast, are of excellent quality.

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Transitional Water Quality 2013-2018

Transitional waters, which are more commonly referred to as estuaries, are positioned at the interface between land and sea and as such are exposed to a wide range of human pressures. These pressures can include discharges from industrial and municipal waste water treatment plants, inputs from diffuse agricultural sources, morphological alterations associated with harbour and port activities and discharges from marine vessels. A total of 79 transitional water bodies were assessed between 2013 and 2018. Of these, 38% are in good or high ecological status, accounting for 42% of the total area assessed. The remaining transitional water bodies were classed as moderate or worse ecological status.

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Lake Water Quality 2013-2018

The primary pressure on lakes is eutrophication resulting from nutrient enrichment mainly from diffuse pollution sources. Two hundred and twenty four lakes were monitored for the WFD in the period 2013-2018. Of these, 113 lakes (50.5% of lakes monitored) are in high or good ecological status and 111 lakes (49.5%) are in moderate or worse status.

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River Water Quality 2013-2018

Two thousand, three hundred and fifty-five river water bodies were surveyed in the period 2013-2018 representing 74% of Ireland's total of 3,192 river water bodies. 1,247 (53%) of monitored river water bodies are in high or good ecological status, with 1,108 (47%) in moderate, poor or bad ecological status. The more densely populated and economically developed eastern and north-eastern parts of the country are most affected by water quality issues. The number of bad status river water bodies increased from 6 in 2010-2015 to 9 in 2013-2018.

Nationally there has been a 5.5% decline in the ecological status of river water bodies since 2015. There has been a significant decline in the number of high ecological status river water bodies which have fallen by nearly a third since 2015 and an increase in the number of poor status water bodies, which have increased by a third over the same time period. These changes across the spectrum of river quality indicate that river water bodies are under pressure from a wide range of human activities. 

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Sustainable EconomyStatus / Trend
Car Numbers & Engine Size Status for Indicator at Amber
Environmental Tax Revenue  amber face
Renewable Energy Production Status for Indicator at Amber
Total Final Energy Consumption by Fuel red face
Resource Productivity green face

Car Numbers and Engine Size

There was a continuing trend up to 2007 towards increased new car ownership and the purchase of new cars with larger engine sizes. However in 2009, the number of new cars licensed declined very significantly. There has been an increase again since 2010 with a trend towards cars with mid-range & large engine sizes.

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Environmental Tax Revenue 2017

€5.2 billion of environment related taxes were collected in 2017, the highest level yet recorded.  Energy taxes (mainly taxes on transport fuels) accounted for 62% of total environment taxes in 2017 with another 37% coming from Transport taxes (including motor tax and vehicle registration tax). 

 

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Renewable Energy Production

Most of the growth in renewable energy has come from wind. Wind provided 52% of all renewable energy in 2017. Solid biomass and bioliquids were the next largest sources of growth. Bioenergy, including biomass, landfill gas, biogas and bioliquids, collectively accounted for 39% of renewable energy in 2017.  In 2016, gas imports fell by 53% due to new indigenous production from the Corrib gas field.  Gas imports fell by a further 17% in 2017.

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Total Final Energy Consumption by Fuel Type

Ireland’s overall energy consumption increased significantly up to 2008 due to growth in energy consumption for transport, electricity and space heating. The total figure fell by 14 per cent between 2008 and 2015. Fossil fuels accounted for 77 per cent of all energy used in Ireland in 2015 with oil continuing to be the dominant energy source in 2015, with a share of 57 per cent.

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Resource Productivity

Resource productivity is a measure of the efficiency of resource use.

Ireland’s raw material resource consumption has improved considerably since 2000 whilst broadly maintaining national wealth generation (in terms of GDP). In other words, Ireland is becoming more efficient in terms of the materials consumed to support the economy. There was an exception to this trend in 2013 due to changes in the domestic extraction of non-metallic minerals and fossil fuels.

Efficient use of raw materials is essential to economic competitiveness, environmental sustainability and sufficiency of ecosystem services.  

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a measure of economic activity. It represents the monetary value of all goods and services produced over a specified period of time.

Domestic Material Consumption (DMC) measures the total amount of material directly consumed by the economy

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LandStatus / Trend
Afforestation green face
Land Cover green face
Organic Agricultural Land green face

Afforestation

In the Forestry Programme 2014-2020 a target was set to afforest an average of 7,235 hectares annually, which included a 30% target for broadleaf afforestation.  As a result of the positive differential in favour of broadleaf species in both the afforestation grant and premium schemes the proportion of broadleaves planted has significantly increased since 1993.

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Land Cover

Despite rapid development in the last two decades, Ireland's landscape is predominantly rural and agricultural. Artificial surfaces account for just under 2.5 per cent of the land surface, significantly below the Europe-wide average of 4 per cent. Agriculture and forestry land-use account for 67 per cent and 9 per cent of the national land area respectively with wetlands accounting for a further 15 per cent.

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Organic Agricultural Land 1990-2018

Land used for organic farming in Ireland grew by 180 per cent between 1997 and 2012, when it accounted for just over 52,000 hectares (1.2 per cent of total agricultural land). This is the second smallest percentage of agricultural land given over to organic farming in the EU. Austria, with 19.7 per cent, had the highest percentage of agricultural land farmed organically.

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