EPA greenhouse gas emissions projections 2011-2020.

Date released: Apr 16 2012

EPA projections for the period 2011 to 2020 show:

  • Ireland can comply with its Kyoto obligations (2008 – 2012) with regard to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Ireland is predicted to breach its annual obligations under the EU 2020 target from 2017 onwards in the best-case scenario.
  • Total emissions are projected to be 4.1 to 7.8 million tonnes of CO2eq above the EU 2020 target.
  • Emissions from agriculture are projected to increase by 7.0% by 2020 (on 2010 levels) which shows the projected impact of Food Harvest 2020 and removal of EU milk quota.

The EPA today published greenhouse gas emissions projections for the period 2011 to 2020. The figures show the projected trends for greenhouse gases and give a picture of Ireland’s ability to meet EU and international targets with respect to greenhouse gas emissions. The projections will be submitted to the EU as required.  Today’s projections update the previous set of national emission projections which were published in April 2011 by the EPA.  Two scenarios are developed – one based on policies and measures already in existence or being implemented, and the other on existing measures plus all planned policies and measures that are currently known.

 Commenting on the figures Laura Burke, Director General, EPA said

“The projections show a reduction in Ireland’s distance to target under the Kyoto Protocol and the EU 2020 targets. This reflects a combination of the effects of the economic recession as well as assumptions on the full implementation of relevant Government policies. Failure to deliver on the measures outlined in Government policies will result in higher emissions than predicted. ”

 She continued:

“Ireland cannot rely on recession to meet our long term carbon reduction requirements and needs to develop as a low carbon economy.  In order to ensure that our future economic growth is sustainable it must be more resource-efficient and decoupled from increases in emissions.”

Greenhouse gas emissions projections have been produced by the EPA for both the Kyoto period, and for the period up to 2020. 

Kyoto Protocol (2008-2012)

The projections presented here indicate that Ireland can comply with its Kyoto obligations for the 2008-2012 without any further purchase of credits. The projections show a total ‘distance to target’ for the Kyoto Protocol period of between 4.1 and 5.1 million tonnes of CO2eq.  This compares to 6.3 to 8.1 million tonnes of CO2eq in the April 2011 projections.  The reduction is primarily attributable to a reduction in transport emissions over the 2008-2012 period.

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’. Under this package, Ireland is required to deliver a 20% reduction in non-ETS greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 (relative to 2005 levels) and keep emissions below annual limits over the period 2013-2020.  These non-ETS emissions come from agriculture, transport, residential and waste activities, and exclude main industrial activities which are covered under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

Projections indicate that Ireland will breach its annual limit by 2017, in the best case scenario, and exceed its EU 2020 target by between 4.1 and 7.8 million tonnes of CO2eq in 2020. The projections also indicate that Ireland will exceed its obligations over the period 2013-2020 by between 2.0 and 21.0 million tonnes of CO2eq.

Projected Sectoral trends

Transport and agriculture are projected to account for 75% of total non-ETS emissions by 2020.  This illustrates the important role that both transport and agriculture will have to play in developing mitigation options for reducing emissions in Ireland and for meeting our 2020 EU targets.

Growth in transport emissions is projected to slow significantly in comparison with historical growth rates. This is attributed to a slowdown in economic growth, which particularly impacts freight transport, and saturation in car ownership levels as emigration increases.

Whilst agriculture is key to Ireland’s economic growth, employing 150,000 people and producing annual exports of more than €7 billion, emissions from the sector are projected to increase by 7% between 2010 and 2020, under the assumption that the Food Harvest 2020 targets will be achieved in full.

Dr Eimear Cotter, Senior Manager, EPA Office of Climate, Licensing, Research and Resource Use said:

“Ireland’s unique emissions profile, with high agricultural and transport emissions, presents a challenge in terms of developing cost-effective emission reduction strategies. Emissions projections published by the EPA today are central to informing good decision making on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in these important sectors.”

The EPA Projections of greenhouse gas emissions to 2020 are available on the EPA website.
Further information: EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours)or media@epa.ie 
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 are 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 renewable energy targets and energy efficiency targets as set out in the National Renewable Energy action Plan (NREAP) and the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP).

Emissions reductions under the with additional measures scenario 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 effectiveness, will result in higher emissions levels than projected. The difficulties associated with meeting these criteria should thus 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 Authority of Ireland (SEAI), for energy forecasts and Teagasc for forecast animal numbers.

Energy-related emissions projections are based on energy forecasts published by SEAI in December 2011. These energy forecasts are based on macroeconomic forecasts developed by ESRI which assume average annual GNP growth of 2.3% per annum between 2011 and 2015 and 3.6% between 2016 and 2020. In terms of GDP, average annual growth rates are 3.0% between 2011 and 2015 and 3.3% between 2016 and 2020.

Forest Sinks
The ability of forests to store and sequester atmospheric carbon is an important means of offsetting greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland. Forest sinks are included in the calculation of the ‘distance to target’ for the Kyoto period as allowed for under the Kyoto Protocol. Forest sinks are currently not accounted for in the calculation of the distance to the 2020 target and annual limits in the period 2013-2010. This reflects a recent EU Commission proposal which indicates that sinks will not be allowed to be used for compliance in the period 2013-2020. For Ireland, forest sinks could provide a removal of 4.6 Mtonnes of CO2 in 2020 and 32 Mtonnes of CO2 over the 2013-2020 period.

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 average limit under the Kyoto Protocol (62.8 Mtonnes of CO2eq) minus annual allocation to ETS sectors as set out in the second National Allocation Plan (22.3 million allowances) = 40.6 Mtonnes of CO2eq attributable to non-ETS sectors.

This figure is then compared with projected emissions from non-ETS sectors (41.6 Mtonnes of CO2eq under the with measures scenario or 41.4 Mtonnes of CO2eq 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.