Ireland faces significant challenges in becoming a low carbon economy according to EPA projections

Date released: May 18 2015

EPA figures released today show that significant effort will be needed for Ireland to meet its EU greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets and become a low carbon economy.
Ireland’s EU target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, transport, the built environment, waste and non-energy intensive industry - the non-Emissions Trading Scheme sector - by 20 per cent by 2020 (compared to emissions for 2005).

The latest projections show that:

  • Ireland’s non-Emissions Trading Scheme sector annual emissions are projected to be 9 - 14 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. This compares to the 2020 target of 20 per cent below 2005 levels;
  • Overachievement of annual limits in the period 2013-2017 under the best case scenario will allow Ireland to cumulatively meet its compliance obligations over the period 2013-2020;
  • This scenario assumes that ambitious policies and measures out to 2020 will be implemented in full, including reducing energy consumption in our homes and businesses and increasing renewable fuels in transport and heating.

Commenting on the latest figures, Ms Laura Burke, EPA Director General said:

"Our economy is now beginning to grow again and we must balance our focus on growth with a focus on becoming more sustainable and reducing emissions. Considerable effort will be needed between now and 2020 to implement key policies and measures in order to deliver projected emissions reductions. These include improvements in energy efficiency across the industry, commercial and residential sectors and reducing emissions from transport.

Greenhouse Gas emissions need to be reduced to near or below zero before the end of this century,” continued Laura Burke. 

“That target has been highlighted consistently by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  That is the wider context and the reality is that negative carbon dioxide emissions will be required.   Ireland must follow a pathway of decarbonising energy and transport.  We must break our dependence on fossil energy infrastructures.  We must adopt sustainable food production, management and consumption systems. This will take considerable planning, investment and time.”

Agriculture and transport continue to dominate non-Emissions Trading Scheme sector emissions. Together they account for approximately 75 per cent of Ireland’s non-Emissions Trading Scheme sector emissions in 2020 (agriculture (46%), transport (29%)). For the period 2013-2020, agriculture emissions are projected to increase by 2%. Transport emissions are projected to show strong growth over the period to 2020 with a 13 – 19 per cent increase on 2013 levels.

It is important to note that even if Ireland complies with its 2013-2020 obligations there will be new obligations (as yet undefined) for the years 2021-2030. A starting point for post-2020 obligations in excess of the range of expected outcomes for 2020 (i.e., 9 – 14 per cent below 2005 levels) will inevitably lead to severe compliance challenges early in the following decade and beyond.

The EPA projections of greenhouse gas emissions to 2035 are now available on the EPA website.


Notes to Editor:
EU greenhouse gas emission 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.  The second category (which is the subject of this press release) deals with the non-Emissions Trading Scheme sectors such as agriculture, transport, built environment (residential, commercial/institutional), waste and non-energy intensive industry. The EU’s Effort Sharing Decision (Decision No 406/2009/EC) sets targets for the non-Emissions Trading Scheme sector for EU Member States including Ireland for 2020.

The Environmental Protection Agency produces greenhouse gas emission projections on an annual basis for all sectors of the economy in collaboration with relevant State and other bodies. The latest projections were submitted to the European Commission to fulfil reporting obligations in 2015.

Ireland’s 2020 target is to achieve a 20% reduction of non-Emissions Trading Scheme sector emissions on 2005 levels with annual binding limits set for each year over the period 2013-2020. For this year’s projections, the Environmental Protection Agency has estimated annual limits and a 2020 target for Ireland which incorporate methodology changes underpinning greenhouse gas emission inventories and projections. 

To determine compliance under the EU Effort Sharing Decision (Decision No 406/2009/EC), any overachievement of the binding emission limit in a particular year can be banked and used towards compliance in a future year. For example, if non-Emissions Trading Scheme sector emissions for 2013 are below the annual binding limit, the difference can be used towards compliance in subsequent years.

Greenhouse gas emissions are projected to the year 2035 using two scenarios:

  • With Measures or ‘worst case’ scenario assumes that no additional policies and measures, beyond those already in place by the end of 2013, are implemented.
  • With Additional Measures or ‘best case’ scenario assumes that Government policies and measures for 2020, for example renewable fuels and energy efficiency targets, will be fully implemented.  Emissions reductions under the with additional measures scenario assume achievement of such policies and measures in the period 2013 to 2020.  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).
    These two scenarios give an upper and lower range for greenhouse gas emissions into the future, and it is likely that actual emissions will fall somewhere within this range.

The following are key underlying data that underpin this year’s greenhouse gas emissions projections:

  • Energy-related emissions projections are based on energy forecasts provided to the Environmental Protection Agency by Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland in December 2014.
  • The energy forecasts are based on a set of macroeconomic assumptions supplied by the Economic and Social Research Institute (Quarterly Economic Commentary published in Autumn 2014).
  • Agriculture emissions projections are based on data from Teagasc which were provided to the Environmental Protection Agency in January 2015. A key assumption underpinning the agriculture emissions projections is that the Food Harvest 2020 targets will be met in full.