EPA projections show that Ireland faces considerable challenges to becoming a low-carbon economy

Date released: May 28 2014

EPA projections show that Ireland faces considerable challenges to becoming a low-carbon economy

Environmental Protection Agency figures released today show that Ireland faces considerable challenges in moving to a low carbon economy. In particular, there is a significant risk that, even under the best-case scenario, Ireland will not meet its EU 2020 targets.

Ireland’s EU target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport, agriculture, residential, waste and non-energy intensive industry by 20 per cent by 2020 (compared to emissions for 2005).  EPA projections show that:

  • Under the best case scenario, greenhouse gas emissions will remain relatively static up to 2020;
  • As a result, emissions in 2020 will be 5-12 per cent below 2005 levels and will not meet the 20 per cent reduction target.

“Today’s figures show that we are currently not on track to becoming a low-carbon economy,” said Laura Burke, Director General of the EPA. 
“We have not solved the problem of greenhouse gas emissions and this becomes an even more pressing challenge as the economy begins to improve and places further new pressures on emissions targets.”

Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions profile is unique in the dominance of the agriculture sector. Emissions from the transport sector are also significant. Emissions in some sectors such as residential, waste, and services are projected to decrease between now and 2020, but emissions from the agriculture and transport sectors – even under the best case scenario - are projected to increase by 9 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively.  These figures assume that ambitious targets will be met for renewable fuel penetration, electric vehicle rollout and Food Harvest 2020.

“Recent IPCC reports are clear that climate change is already impacting on us and the natural systems on which we depend”, Laura Burke said.  “We need to reduce potential future risks by taking effective action to lower our emissions of greenhouse gases. We must invest in structural and behavioural change to enable our transition to a carbon neutral and climate resilient Ireland. These changes include the rapid decarbonisation of energy and transport and the adoption of sustainable food production, management and consumption systems”.

After 2020 - Greenhouse Gas Emissions to 2030

For the period 2020 to 2030, greenhouse gas emissions are projected to be 11 per cent higher again than in 2020 if further policies and measures are not in place to curb the growth in carbon intensity. The EPA concludes that achieving the significant emission reductions that will underpin a competitive, low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy poses significant challenges for Ireland.

Speaking at the launch of the EPA projections, Dr Eimear Cotter, Senior Manager, EPA said:

“We need to translate our national commitment to a low-carbon future into action on the ground if we are to deliver the required emission reductions. This is an opportunity for Ireland to show leadership as a low-carbon economy. There are wide benefits for business and farmers, for example, which include reducing impacts and costs; managing and minimising risk more effectively and building competitive advantage through innovative products and processes.”

The EPA Projections of greenhouse gas emissions to 2030 are available in two places on the EPA website, Air Emissions and Inventories and Projections

Editor’s Note:

1. EU Sectoral Targets: 

EU Greenhouse Gas targets and reduction obligations for Ireland are split into two broad categories.  The first category covers the large energy and power (i.e. energy intensive) industry which have their emissions controlled under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS); this category accounts for approximately 30% of the national greenhouse gas emissions profile.  The second category (which is the subject of this press release) deals with all the non ETS sectors such as Agriculture, Transport, Residential, Waste, Commercial and non-energy intensive industry.  This second category accounts for approximately 70% of the national greenhouse gas emissions profile.

Further information is available in this EPA Infographic.

2. 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 models as they become available. Emissions projections for all sectors of the economy 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:

(i) the with measures scenario is based on existing and currently implemented policies and measures.
(ii) 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 in the period 2013 to 2020.

Assumptions underlying these projections are that:

(i) all relevant policies and measures outlined in current Government policy documents will be adopted and fully implemented on time and
(ii) 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.

3. 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 developed by SEAI. These energy forecasts are based on macroeconomic forecasts supplied by ESRI which assume average annual GNP growth of 2.1% per annum between 2012 and 2015 and 3.5% between 2016 and 2020. In terms of GDP, average annual growth rates are 2.1% between 2012 and 2015 and 3.9% between 2016 and 2020.

4. The non-emissions trading and emissions trading sectors:

The non-Emissions Trading sector includes emissions from transport, agriculture, residential, waste and non-energy intensive industry. It thus includes emissions from those sectors not included in the Emissions Trading Scheme. The Effort Sharing Decision 406/2009/EC establishes binding annual targets for each member state for the period 2013-2020 for emissions from the non-Emissions Trading sector.

The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is one of the key policies introduced by the European Union (EU) to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The scheme commenced in 2005 and operates on a "Cap and Trade" basis. Installations covered by the scheme include electricity generation and energy intensive industries. Up to 2013 it was operated at an individual member state level. From 2013 there is a central, European wide cap on emissions in place.