Ireland’s greenhouse gas projections up to 2020

Date released: Apr 28 2010

  • Latest greenhouse gas emissions projections show Ireland will comply with Kyoto Protocol without any more purchases
  • Achieving more stringent 2020 targets will require further reduction measures yet to be identified
  • Growth in transport emissions projected to slow significantly to 2020 compared with annual growth rates 1990-2008
  • Carbon sinks (such as increased afforestation) crucial for 2020 target

The EPA today released projected emissions of Ireland’s greenhouse gases up to 2020. These projections, produced on an annual basis, give a picture of Ireland’s ability to meet international targets with respect to greenhouse gas emissions and update those published in March 2009.

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:

“National greenhouse gas projections are important 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 released today reflect the effects of the economic downturn, and the anticipated recovery, based on ESRI economic forecasts. Even with reductions due to the downturn it is projected that Ireland will still be 2.8 million tonnes per annum of CO2e above the non-ETS target in 2020 taking the most ambitious scenarios set out in Government policies and assuming that forestry sinks are fully included.”

Greenhouse gas emission projections have been produced by the EPA, for both the Kyoto period and up to 2020, under two different policy scenarios, which indicate the potential outlook for greenhouse gas emissions. The two scenarios are a with measures scenario and a with additional measures scenario. Both scenarios are based on SEI’s energy forecasts published in December 2009 which are underpinned by the ESRI’s World Recovery scenario 2009. Agricultural emissions projections are based on data recently received from Teagasc and take into account forecast animal numbers, nitrogen fertiliser use and crop statistics.

Dr Kelly continued:

“The clear message is that major challenges still exist in achieving real reductions in greenhouse gases which should not be underestimated. Failure to deliver on the measures outlined in Government policies will result in higher emissions than predicted. In particular, 20% of the reduction expected in 2015 under the most ambitious scenario, and 35% of that expected in 2020, are anticipated to come from as yet unspecified policies and measures”.

Under the less optimistic scenario, total greenhouse gas emissions are projected to decrease by 6% between now and 2020 (an average reduction of only 0.5% per annum) and even under the current most ambitious scenario the reduction is projected to be 15% over the period (an average reduction of 1.3% per annum).

Comparison with Kyoto Protocol Limit (2008 – 2012)
The Kyoto Protocol limits Ireland’s total national emissions to an average of 62.8 million tonnes of CO2e per year in the period 2008 – 2012.  This is 13 per cent above the baseline (1990) estimate. 

Applying the most ambitious reduction scenario, the Government’s purchasing requirement (or need for additional domestic policies and measures) would reduce to 2.5 Mtonnes of CO2e per annum for each of the five years 2008-2012 as compared to the 3.6 Mtonnes per annum anticipated in the National Climate Change Strategy. Purchases already made by NTMA on behalf of Government, coupled with operation of the ETS, means that Ireland can comply with the Kyoto obligations without any further purchases.

Comparison with EU 2020 Targets for non-ETS sector emissions
A second, and different, set of legally binding targets applies under the EU Commission’s Energy and Climate Package, agreed by EU Parliament and Council in December 2008, and requires Ireland to deliver a 20 per cent reduction, relative to 2005 levels, in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. 

According to Dr. Kelly:

“This target is particularly difficult to achieve as it excludes those sectors covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and applies to agriculture, transport, residential and other sectors, where it is much more difficult to achieve reductions.

Not all the targets factored into the projections are associated with detailed policies and measures. Now is the time to develop further policies.”

Growth in transport emissions is projected to slow significantly in comparison with the annual growth rates experienced between 1990-2008. This can be attributed to a slowdown in economic growth, increased use of bio-fuels, mobility management and travel plans, E-working, sustainable transport fleets, efficient driving methods and electric vehicle penetration.

Nonetheless it is projected that Ireland will still be some 7.6 million tonnes of CO2e higher in 2020 than our target for that year. Inclusion of carbon sinks could reduce the distance to target to 2.8 Mtonnes of CO2e.
Dr. Ken Macken, Programme Manager, EPA Climate Change Unit commented:

“A 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the non-trading sector is going to be very difficult to achieve. 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 almost 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.”


Dr. Macken added

“It is estimated that forest sinks will sequester in the order of 4.8 million tonnes of CO2 per anum by 2020. The inclusion of forest sinks is therefore critically important for Ireland and will play a significant role in bringing Ireland closer to its 2020 target for the non-ETS sector emissions.”


The EPA Projections of greenhouse gas emissions to 2020  are available on the EPA website.


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


Editor’s Note:


EPA Emission Projection Scenarios
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 EPA has two scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions which are described as follows:

  1. the with measures scenario is based on existing and currently implemented policies and measures. 
  2. the with additional measures scenario adjusts the with measures scenario to account for all existing and currently planned policies and measures. Planned policies and measures include the revised renewable energy targets and energy efficiency targets as set out in the Energy White Paper and the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan.

Emissions reductions under the with additional measures scenario are projected to be delivered through policies and measures outlined primarily in the Energy White Paper and the National 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 the full 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.

Energy Forecasts Underpinning Energy-Related Emissions Projections
The greenhouse gas emission projections presented here are based on data provided by a range of other State agencies and organisations, most notably Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) for energy forecasts and Teagasc for forecast animal numbers.

Energy-related emissions projections are based on energy forecasts published by SEI in December 2009. These energy forecasts are based on the same macro-economic assumptions that underpin the ESRI’s World Recovery scenario which assume average real GNP growth of -9.0% in 2009, -1.9% in 2010, increasing to, on average, 5.5% per annum between 2010 and 2015 and 3.3% between 2015 and 2020. In terms of GDP, growth rates are -7.8 % in 2009, -2.3% in 2010, 5.2% between 2010 and 2015 and 3.3% between 2015 and 2020.

Government Use of Kyoto Mechanisms or Additional Domestic Action for the Kyoto Period
To determine the Government’s use of Kyoto Mechanisms or the need for additional domestic action, the ‘allowable’ emissions from the non-ETS sectors are first calculated. This is calculated as:


Ireland’s annual averaged limit under the Kyoto Protocol (62.8 Mtonnes of CO2e) minus annual allocation to ETS sectors as set out in the second National Allocation Plan (22.3 million allowances) = 40.6 Mtonnes of CO2e attributable to non-ETS sectors.


This figure is then compared with projected emissions from non-ETS sectors (43.6 Mtonnes of CO2e under the with measures scenario or 43.1 Mtonnes of CO2e under the with additional measures scenario) to find the implications for the Government in terms of using Kyoto Mechanisms or implementing additional domestic policies and measures. The total impact over the 2008-2012 Kyoto period is then 5 times the annual average.