EPA Projections of greenhouse gas emissions to 2020

Date released: Sep 24 2008

The EPA today released projections of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions to 2020, as mandated under the National Climate Change Strategy. These projections update those published in the National Climate Change Strategy in April 2007 and give a picture of Ireland’s ability to meet international targets with respect to greenhouse gas emissions, if current policies and programmes are implemented.

The EPA projections highlight an ongoing challenge for Ireland to meet its obligations under both the Kyoto Protocol targets and under the proposed EU 2020 targets. The projections are reported on a sectoral basis and highlight, once again, that the key sectors contributing to greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland are agriculture, energy and transport.

Commenting on the projections Dr Mary Kelly, Director General, EPA said:

“Publication of national greenhouse gas projections is an important step in understanding Ireland’s greenhouse gas profile in the medium term, and in assessing the effectiveness of policy measures designed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.  The projections published today show that meeting the proposed targets over the years to 2020 will be extremely challenging and further emphasises that actions to reduce domestic emissions must be intensified and strengthened.”

“Additional actions to those planned in energy efficiency, reduced dependence on fossil fuels and, potentially, increased purchases of carbon credits are amongst the policy options available.  The potential for using carbon sinks, such as increased levels of afforestation, will also need to be explored.”

Greenhouse gas emission projections have been produced by the EPA, for both the Kyoto targets and the proposed EU 2020 targets, under three different policy scenarios, which show the potential outlook for greenhouse gas emissions to 2020. All three scenarios assume a ‘low-growth’ economic outlook for the period 2007 to 2020, generally similar to the ESRI’s benchmark forecast published in the 2008 – 2015 Medium Term review in May.  The three scenarios are a baseline scenario, a with measures scenario and a with additional measures scenario.

Comparison with Kyoto Protocol Target (2008 – 2012)
The Kyoto Protocol limits Ireland’s total national emissions to an average of 62.8 million tonnes (Mtonnes) of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per year in the period 2008 – 2012.  This is 13 per cent above the baseline estimate. 

The projections indicate the level of total national greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland over the Kyoto period and, therefore, indicate our distance to the Kyoto Protocol target under the three scenarios.

Under the With Additional Measures scenario, (which is the most ambitious reduction scenario), total greenhouse gas emissions are projected to be on average 5.0 Mtonnes per annum of CO2e higher than our Kyoto Protocol target for each year of the period 2008 –2012.

Hence these projections now imply a further distance to target of 1.4 Mtonnes per annum for each of the 5 years to 2012 over that envisaged in the National Climate Change Strategy, after account is taken of the planned purchase of 3.6 Mtonnes per annum under Kyoto mechanisms.

Comparison with proposed EU 2020 Targets for non-ETS sector emissions
A second, and different, target is proposed for Ireland under the EU Commission’s Energy and Climate Package, currently being debated at European level. The EU Commission’s package of proposals initially requires Ireland to deliver a 20 per cent reduction, relative to 2005 levels, in greenhouse gas emissions.  This target is to be reached by 2020 and excludes the sectors covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The total proposed EU reduction may be increased to 30% by 2020, if and when a new global climate change agreement is reached.

“A 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the non-trading sector is going to be very difficult to achieve without radical change.  The non-trading sector consists of agriculture, transport, residential and other sectors, but excludes the energy and large industrial sectors -which are being dealt with under the cap and trade system of the Emissions Trading Directive,”
said Dr Kelly.

“The breakdown of the projections by individual sector will allow policy makers to focus on the areas where reductions are possible, but will also highlight areas where reductions are most difficult.  The projections should allow policy options to be assessed realistically.”

She continued:

“The profile of greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland is unusual in the European context, with agriculture currently accounting for 27 per cent of all emissions and 40 per cent of emissions in the non-trading sector.  This makes it very difficult to effect actual reductions on the scale required in the non-trading sector.  Consequently, Ireland’s policy makers need to look to countries with similar profiles, such as New Zealand, to study their mitigation and reduction strategies.”

Under the With Additional Measures scenario, national emissions are projected to be 7.0 Mtonnes of CO2e higher in 2020 than the proposed target for that year. Emissions reductions under this scenario are projected to be delivered through policies and measures outlined primarily in the Energy White Paper and the draft Energy Efficiency Action Plan. The impact of these measures will be realised mainly in the period 2012 to 2020.

Assumptions underlying these projections are that:

  1. all relevant policies and measures outlined in current Government policy documents will be adopted and fully implemented on time and
  2. all relevant measures will achieve in full the emissions reductions anticipated.

Failure to deliver on any of these measures or a reduction in their environmental effectiveness will result in higher emissions levels than projected. The difficulties associated with meeting these criteria should not be underestimated, and will become even greater in the event of an international climate change agreement when the EU will require an overall 30 per cent reduction by 2020.

Dr. Ken Macken, Programme Manager, EPA Climate Change Unit added:

“It is clear from EPA projections that meeting Kyoto targets in 2012 will be possible with extra purchase of carbon credits.  Meeting the 2020 targets will be much more difficult with the non-trading sector projected to exceed the EU proposed target by 7 million tonnes.”

He continued: 
“It will be essential to reduce Ireland’s dependence on fossil fuels and ensure that very significant increases are achieved in the use of alternative energy sources.  The role of research will be crucial, particularly in regard to examining all possible options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture and transport sectors, but also in regard to identifying and implementing new technology options.  The inclusion of forest sinks will be crucial for Ireland.”


The EPA Projections of greenhouse gas emissions to 2020 can now be downloaded from the EPA website.


Further information: Niamh Leahy, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours)


Editor’s Note:

Estimates of future emissions are inherently uncertain. Therefore, projections need to be continually updated and refined to take account of the most recent socioeconomic, technological and policy developments, to update key assumptions and to take account of better data and better models as they become available. Emissions projections for all sectors will be updated on an annual basis to ensure that all relevant developments are captured and incorporated.


The three scenarios used by the EPA for projections are as follows:

  1. the Baseline scenario: which is based on current policies and measures. However not all existing policies and measures from the National Climate Change Strategy (NCCS, 2007) are included;
  2. the With Measures scenario: which adjusts the Baseline scenario to account for all existing policies and measures in the NCCS.
  3. the With Additional Measures scenario: which adjusts the Baseline scenario to account for all existing and currently planned policies and measures. Planned policies and measures include the renewable energy targets set out in the Energy White Paper and energy efficiency targets set out in the draft Energy Efficiency Action Plan.