Greenhouse gas emissions projected to increase strongly as economic growth takes hold

Date released: Apr 13 2017


Greenhouse gas emissions projected to increase strongly as economic growth takes hold

  • Ireland is unlikely to meet 2020 EU greenhouse gas emission targets for sectors including  agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, non-energy intensive industry and waste;
  • Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target is 20% below 2005 levels by 2020: EPA projections indicate that emissions will be only 4 - 6% below 2005 levels by 2020;
  • Current and planned policies and measures are not sufficient to meet the 2020 targets, with emissions projected to continue to increase out to 2030 and beyond.

Environmental Protection Agency projections released today show that Ireland will not meet its 2020 EU greenhouse gas emission reduction targets with the current range of policy measures. The latest figures demonstrate the need for new and innovative measures to meet the challenges that Ireland faces in making the transition to a low carbon economy.
Ireland’s EU target for 2020 is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the non-Emissions Trading Scheme (non-ETS) sector by 20 per cent on 2005 levels. The non-ETS sector covers emissions from agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, non-energy intensive industry and waste sectors.

The latest projections show that:

  • Ireland’s non-ETS sector emissions are projected to be 4- 6 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020, compared to the 2020 target of 20 per cent below 2005 levels;
  • While there is overachievement of annual obligations in the early years of the compliance period (2013-2020), this will not be sufficient to allow Ireland to cumulatively meet its compliance obligations. Ireland is expected to breach annual obligation targets in 2016.
  • An expected shortfall in meeting 2020 targets for energy efficiency and renewable energy further adds to the challenge that is facing the State.
  • Projected increased emissions from the agriculture sector (impacted by the Food Wise 2025 Strategy), and growing transport sector emissions, dominate the projected emissions trend in the non-ETS sector.

Agriculture and transport are projected to account for 74 per cent of Ireland’s non-ETS sector emissions in 2020 (agriculture (45%), transport (29%)). For the period 2015-2020, agriculture emissions are projected to increase by 4 – 5 per cent. Transport emissions are projected to show strong growth over the period to 2020 with a 10 – 12 per cent increase on 2015 levels.
New obligations for Ireland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the years 2021-2030 are expected to be agreed at EU level in 2017.  The further away Ireland is from the 20 per cent reduction target in 2020, the more difficult the compliance challenges in the following decade are likely to become.

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

“The EPA’s latest greenhouse gas projections are a disappointing indicator that the current range of policy measures to reduce emissions and to meet compliance obligations are failing in an improving economy.
“In addition, Ireland has a national policy position that commits us to reducing our carbon emissions by at least 80 per cent compared to 1990 levels by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors while achieving carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land use sectors.
“If we are to realise this policy position and our aspirations to transition to a low carbon economy, then any new measures to be included in the upcoming and future National Mitigation plans need to be innovative and effective to get Irelands emissions back on a sustainable trajectory. This will take planning, investment and time but can be achieved in the overall framework of national, EU and global commitments.”

Greenhouse Gas Emission Projections 2016 to 2035 is available on the EPA website.

See full detail on these figures in the EPA web published report Greenhouse Gas Emission Projections 2016 to 2035.


EU greenhouse gas emission reduction 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 main subject of the press release) deals with the non-Emissions Trading Scheme sectors such as agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, 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 following are key underlying data that underpin this year’s greenhouse gas emission projections:

  • Energy-related emission projections are based on energy forecasts provided to the Environmental Protection Agency by Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland in March 2017.
  • The energy forecasts are underpinned by macroeconomic projections supplied by the Economic and Social Research Institute
  • Agriculture emission projections are based on data from Teagasc which were provided to the Environmental Protection Agency in December 2015. A key assumption underpinning the agriculture emissions projections is sustainable growth under Food Wise 2025.
  • The impact of forest sinks is not included in this compliance assessment. This is in line with EU accounting rules which do not allow the use of forest sinks to meet EU 2020 targets.

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 2017 projections, the Environmental Protection Agency is using legislative limits (for the period 2013-2016) and estimated annual limits (for the period 2017-2020) in anticipation of possible changes to legislative limits arising from methodological changes underpinning greenhouse gas emission inventories.

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:

  • The With Existing Measures scenario assumes that no additional policies and measures, beyond those already in place by the end of 2015, are implemented.
  • The With Additional Measures scenario assumes implementation of the With Existing Measures scenario in addition to further implementation of policies and measures out to 2020 including progressing the 2020 targets set out in Ireland’s National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) and the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP). For 2017 projections, the energy forecast has been adjusted to reflect current progress and the trajectory towards achieving 2020 targets. This includes an expected shortfall in achieving full renewable energy and energy efficiency targets set out in the NREAP and NEEAP.

An overview of total projected emissions by sectors (which include ETS and non-ETS emissions) under the With Additional Measures is presented in Table 1 and Figure 1.

Table 1. Projected greenhouse gas emissions to 2030 under the With Additional Measures Scenario

Mt CO2 eq 2016 2020 2025 2030



Energy Industries 11.44 8.707 9.561 10.491 -8.30%
Residential 5.94 6.061 6.189 6.097 2.64%
Manufacturing Combustion 4.407 5.154 5.234 5.402 22.58%
Commercial and Public Services 1.957 1.592 1.744 1.824 -6.80%
Transport 13.018 13.072 14.839 14.702 12.94%
Industrial Processes 2.063 2.329 2.677 3 45.42%
F-Gases 0.991 0.916 0.836 0.722 -27.14%
Agricultural 20.019 20.643 20.646 20.156 0.68%
Waste 0.885 0.623 0.547 0.5 -43.50%
Total 60.72 59.096 62.273 62.892 3.585

Figure 1 Projected sectoral share of total greenhouse gas emissions (including ETS and non ETS emissions) in 2030 in the With Additional Measures scenario

More trend figures and tables available in the report on the EPA website.

Units: 1 Mt = 1,000 kilotonnes

CO2 Equivalent: greenhouse gases other than CO2 (i.e. methane, nitrous oxide and so-called F-gases) may be converted to CO2 equivalent using their global warming potentials. 

F-gases: These gases comprise HFCs (Hydrofluorocarbons), PFCs (Perfluorocarbons), SF6 (Sulphur Hexafluoride) and NF3 (Nitrogen Trifluoride).  They are much more potent than the naturally occurring greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide).

Ireland’s GHG Sectors:  include the following nine sectors for analysis;

  1. Energy Industries (electricity generation, waste to energy incineration, oil refining, briquetting manufacture and fugitive emissions)
  2. Residential (combustion for domestic space and hot water heating)
  3. Manufacturing Combustion (combustion for Manufacturing industries)
  4. Commercial and Public Services (combustion for Commercial and Public Services space and hot water heating)
  5. Transport (combustion of fuel used in road, rail, navigation, domestic aviation and pipeline gas transport)
  6. Industrial Processes (process emissions from mineral, chemical, metal industries, non-energy products and solvents)
  7. F-Gases (gases used in refrigeration, air conditioning and semiconductor manufacture)
  8. Agriculture (emissions from fertiliser application, ruminant digestion, manure management, agricultural soils and fuel used in agriculture/forestry/fishing)
  9. Waste (emissions from solid waste disposal on land, solid waste treatment (composting), wastewater treatment, waste incineration and open burning of waste).