The key environmental indicators for Ireland are presented below. The current environmental status/trend of each indicator is also given, where appropriate. Choose an indicator from the list below to explore in more detail.
|Air||Status / Trend|
|Air Emissions: Nitrogen Oxides|
|Air Quality: Ground Level Ozone|
|Air Quality: Nitrogen Dioxide|
|Air Quality: Particulate Matter PM10|
Air Emissions - Nitrogen Oxides
Emissions of NOx are currently well above the 2010 limit in the EU Directive on National Emissions Ceilings and are expected to remain high in the short term, largely due to the difficulty in achieving significant reductions in emissions from road traffic.
Air Quality - Ground Level Ozone
Ground level ozone is an air pollutant which is formed by the chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC), in the presence of strong sunlight. It has a global background concentration, which also has natural sources. Ground level ozone pollution episodes are infrequent in Ireland but may occur when we have unusually hot, dry and stable weather conditions. These episodes may also be triggered by pollution episodes in the rest of Europe, because depending on weather conditions, ground level ozone pollution may be transported across to Ireland from mainland Europe.
Air Quality - Nitrogen Dioxide
Nitrogen dioxide was measured at 15 stations in 2015. Concentrations of nitrogen dioxide were below the limit value at all sites, however they are approaching the limit value in some large urban areas. Annual concentrations measured at suburban and rural sites are significantly lower than those measured at urban sites.
Air Quality - PM10
PM10 was measured at 18 stations in 2015. All stations were compliant with the EU annual limit value, however 16 stations were above the WHO 24-hour mean guideline value. Levels were highest in large towns in Ireland due largely to the burning of solid fuel. In urban areas there is potential for some additional emissions from traffic.
|Climate||Status / Trend|
|Greenhouse Gas Emissions: By Sector|
|Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Projections to 2020|
|Effort Sharing Decision Targets|||
Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector
Ireland's emissions profile has changed considerably since 1990, with the contribution from transport more than doubling and the share from agriculture reducing since 1998. Agriculture is the largest source of emissions, representing 33 per cent of total national emissions in 2015. Both the transport and energy industries sectors represent 19.7 per cent each, of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2015. The transport sector has been the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, showing a 130 per cent increase between 1990 and 2015.
GHG Emissions Projections to 2020
The 2020 EU Effort Sharing target commits Ireland to reducing emissions from those sectors that are not covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme (agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, non-energy intensive industry and waste) to 20 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. Ireland is expected to breach annual obligation targets in 2016. While there is over-achievement 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. Current policies and measures to 2020, including targets for energy efficiency in our homes and businesses and increasing renewable fuel use in transport and heating, will not be sufficient to meet 2020 emission reduction targets.
See further detail in the EPA report Greenhouse Gas Emissions Projections 2016 to 2035.
Effort Sharing Decision
Ireland’s non-Emissions Trading System (ETS) greenhouse gas emissions for 2013 and 2014 are in compliance with the European Union’s Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) targets.
This Decision sets 2020 targets for non-ETS sector emissions and annual binding limits for the period 2013-2020. Ireland’s target is to reduce non-ETS emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels.
|Waste||Status / Trend|
|Biodegradable Waste Diversion from Landfill|
|Household Waste per Capita|
|Recovery and Disposal of Municipal Waste|
|Recovery of Packaging Waste|
Biodegradable Waste Diversion from Landfill
Landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) results in high emissions of methane which is a greenhouse gas and a potential source of odour nuisance. There are targets under the Landfill Directive to divert BMW from landfill. Ireland met the first diversion target (due by July 2010), which was to landfill a maximum 75 per cent of the BMW generated in 1995. Ireland has met the 2013 target, and is on track to meet the 2016 target. There is, however, a risk that municipal waste generation could increase with economic recovery which in turn may result in an increase in BMW being disposed to landfill.
Household Waste per capita
Household waste generation (per capita) in Ireland decreased in the period 2007 to 2012, which reflects less consumption during a period of economic recession.
Recovery and Disposal of Municipal Waste
The amount of municipal waste produced increased steadily up to 2007 to approximately 3.4 million tonnes. However, there has been a 21 per cent decrease in municipal waste generation since 2007, resulting principally from the economic downturn. Municipal waste recovery has increased dramatically over the last decade with 59 per cent of this waste recovered in 2012.
Recovery of Packaging Waste
Ireland has been compliant with all statutory packaging recovery targets set since 2001. A recovery rate of 88 per cent is reported for packaging waste in 2013, exceeding the 2011 EU target of 60 per cent.
|Nature||Status / Trend|
|Conservation Status of Listed Habitats|
|Conservation Status of Listed Species|
Conservation Status of Listed Habitats
The majority of Ireland's habitats that are listed under the Habitats Directive were reported in 2013 to be of inadequate or bad conservation status . Only 9 per cent of listed habitats are considered to be in a favourable state.
Conservation Status of Listed Species
In Ireland 52 per cent of species listed under the Habitats Directive are in a favourable state. These include most species of bat, dolphin and whale. The number of species considered declining in status is low. Aquatic species are most at risk, although species such as the otter and especially the frog are doing very well. The natterjack toad is assessed as “bad but improving”.
Recent red lists indicate that more than a third of Irish bee species and non-marine mollusc species are threatened. In addition, over 15 per cent of Irish water beetle species, butterfly species and dragonflies and damselflies are threatened.
Changes in Countryside Birds 1998 – 2013
There is evidence from the Countryside Bird Survey (1998-2013) that many countryside birds have fared quite well over the last number of years. Overall, twenty species showed increasing trends, seventeen species remained relatively stable and the remaining sixteen declined. Greatest increases were seen in Blackcap and Goldfinch. Greatest declines were in Grey Wagtail, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit and Greenfinch.
|Environment & Wellbeing||Status / Trend|
|Air Quality - Particulate Matter PM2.5|
|Bathing Water Quality|
|Drinking Water Quality|
|Urban Wastewater Treatment|
Air Quality - Particulate Matter 2.5
PM2.5 was measured at 9 stations in 2015 and all concentrations observed were below the EU limit value. However concentrations were above the tighter WHO air quality guideline values. Ireland is also required to reduce PM2.5 average concentrations by 10 per cent by 2020. PM2.5 is considered a good indicator of man-made particulate matter with the main sources being solid fuel burning and traffic emissions.
Bathing Water Quality
Water quality at identified bathing areas remains high with around 93 per cent meeting the mandatory standard of "Sufficient". Prior to 2011, assessment was based on Total and Faecal Coliforms plus Faecal Streptococci. Since 2011, E.coli and Intestinal Enterococci have been used and from 2014 assessment will be based on 4 years of data. A new standard of "Excellent" has also been introduced with three quarters of all identified bathing waters meeting this stricter standard and approximately 83 per cent of bathing areas meeting the stricter “Good" standard. The dip in 2012 was due to the impact of the extremely wet summer. Management measures are required to bring all bathing waters up to at least “Sufficient” status by 2015.
- Sufficient Water Quality - compliant with EU mandatory values (1998-2013) / At least Suficient (2014 onwards)
- Good Water Quality - compliant with EU guide & mandatory values (2010-2013) / Excellent and Good (2014 onwards)
- Poor - not compliant with EU mandatory standards (1998-2013) / post (2014 onwards)
- New - Category introduced for newly identified waters where classification is not yet possible (post 2014)
- Changes - Category related to improvements due to management measures (post 2014)
Drinking Water Quality
The number of consumers served by public water supplies subject to a boil water notice was at an all-time low of 5,743 people at the end of 2016 across 12 drinking water supplies. This is a welcome significant reduction in numbers of the last few years. The number of public water supplies identified as being 'at risk' on the EPA Remedial Action List was also at the lowest level of 99 supplies at the end of 2016. Irish Water need to continue to progress remedial works on the outstanding 'at risk' supplies so that the threat of long-term boil water notices and other chemical failures is eliminated. In 2015, the quality of public water supplies serving 83 per cent of the population remained very good with 99 per cent of samples complying with microbiological and chemical standards. There has been an 86.5 per cent reduction in E.coli detections since the EPA became the environmental regulator in 2007. The quality of drinking water from private supplies, however, remains inferior to that from public supplies.
Urban Waste Water Treatment
Investment in waste water infrastructure has resulted in significant improvements in the treatment of urban waste water. Over 94 per cent of urban waste water at areas >500 p.e. now receives at least secondary (biological) treatment compared to less than 30 per cent in 2001. However, urban waste water still poses a threat to the quality of receiving waters in some areas. In 2015, discharges from 17 per cent of large urban areas (29 out of 171) did not achieve mandatory EU standards, and untreated sewage was discharged at 43 areas.
|Water||Status / Trend|
|Nitrates in Groundwater|
|River Water Quality - Phosphates|
|Coastal Water Quality|
|Transitional Water Quality|
|Lake Water Quality|
Nitrates in Groundwater
Elevated nitrate concentration in groundwater is an issue, particularly in the southeast and south of the country. It may contribute to pollution of surface waters and affect drinking waters.
Note historic concentrations may differ from those previously reported due to the addition to or removal from the network of monitoring points and their associated data.
River Water Quality - Phosphates
Analysis of 2014 data for orthophosphate in rivers (2,066 monitoring stations (an increase of 70 from 2014) covering 748 rivers (an increase of 14 from 2013)) shows an encouraging picture with almost three quarters of all rivers meeting the annual averaged Environmental Quality Standard (EQS) for Good status of 0.035 mg/l P. Ireland has some of the lowest P concentrations in Europe. However, elevated phosphorus is linked with eutrophication in freshwaters which can markedly affect water quality. The areas with the highest P concentrations are to be found mainly in north-eastern counties, some parts of the midlands, and in the lower Shannon catchment, while rivers in the west and north-west generally show the lowest concentrations.
Please note the following mg/lP classifications:
- <0.025 mg/lP - Meets High EQS
- 0.025 - 0.035 mg/lP - Meets Good EQS
- >0.035 mg/lP - Moderate
Coastal Water Quality 2007-2012
Both coastal and transitional waters are positioned at the interface between land and sea and as such are exposed to a wide range of human pressures. These pressures can include discharges from industrial and municipal waste water treatment plants, inputs from diffuse agricultural sources, morphological alterations associated with harbour and port activities and accidental or in some cases intentional discharges from marine vessels. A total of 43 coastal water bodies were assessed by the EPA, Marine Institute and Inland Fisheries Ireland between 2007 and 2012. 67.4 per cent achieved good or high ecological status, accounting for 93 per cent of the total area assessed (approximately 12,471km2) with less than 5 per cent of waters at moderate status. No coastal water body had poor or bad ecological status.
Transitional Water Quality 2007-2012
Both transitional and coastal waters are positioned at the interface between land and sea and as such are exposed to a wide range of human pressures. These pressures can include discharges from industrial and municipal waste water treatment plants, inputs from diffuse agricultural sources, morphological alterations associated with harbour and port activities and discharges from marine vessels. A total of 85 transitional water bodies were assessed by the EPA, Marine Institute and Inland Fisheries Ireland between 2007 and 2012. 36 per cent were found to be at good or high ecological status, accounting for 44.7 per cent of the total area assessed (approximately 377 km2). The remaining transitional water bodies were classed as moderate or worse ecological status.
Lake Water Quality 2010-2012
The primary pressure on lakes is eutrophication resulting from nutrient enrichment mainly from diffuse sources . Two hundred and thirteen lakes representing 955 km2 of lake surface area were monitored for the WFD in the period 2010-2012. Ninety one lakes (43 per cent of lakes monitored) were assigned high or good status and comprised 295 km2. One hundred and twenty two lakes (57 per cent) were moderate or worse in status (660 km2 of lake area monitored).
|Sustainable Economy||Status / Trend|
|Car Numbers & Engine Size|
|Environmental Tax Revenue||N/A|
|Renewable Energy Production|
|Total Final Energy Consumption by Fuel|
Car Numbers and Engine Size
There was a continuing trend up to 2007 towards increased new car ownership and the purchase of new cars with larger engine sizes. However in 2009, the number of new cars licensed declined very significantly. There has been an increase again since 2010 with a trend towards cars with mid-range & large engine sizes.
Environmental Tax Revenue 2014
Environmental taxation revenue in Ireland fell sharply between 2008 and 2009. The fall was due in large part to the collapse in new car sales which significantly reduced revenue from Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) following the change to the calculation of VRT based on the emission rating of the vehicle. Revenue increased in 2010, due to the introduction of the carbon tax which yielded €235 million.
Environmental taxes accounted for 8.2 per cent of Ireland’s total tax revenue in 2014. This was the tenth highest in the EU and is above the EU average of 6.1 per cent.
Renewable Energy Production
Wind has become the main source of renewable energy production in recent years, increasing from 1 per cent of total primary energy production in 2000 to 25 per cent in 2015. This is followed by biomass at 13.7 per cent with the remainder of renewable energy coming from hydro, landfill gas, geothermal, liquid biofuel, solar and biogas.
Total Final Energy Consumption by Fuel Type
Ireland’s overall energy consumption increased significantly up to 2008 due to growth in energy consumption for transport, electricity and space heating. The total figure fell by 14 per cent between 2008 and 2015. Fossil fuels accounted for 77 per cent of all energy used in Ireland in 2015 with oil continuing to be the dominant energy source in 2015, with a share of 57 per cent.
Resource productivity is a measure of the efficiency of resource use.
In the period 2004 to 2006 the negative trend in the indicator suggested poor economic returns on the resources consumed. However Ireland’s raw material resource consumption has improved considerably since then whilst broadly maintaining national wealth generation (in terms of GDP). In other words Ireland is becoming more efficient in terms of the materials consumed to support the economy. Efficient use of raw materials is essential to economic competitiveness, environmental sustainability and sufficiency of ecosystem services.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a measure of economic activity. It represents the monetary value of all goods and services produced over a specified period of time.
Domestic Material Consumption (DMC) measures the total amount of material directly consumed by the economy.
|Land||Status / Trend|
|Organic Agricultural Land|
Since 1997 policies have been in place to increase broadleaf planting, and the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 set a target of 30 per cent annual broadleaf afforestation. This target has been reached (and exceeded) in recent years, but primarily through a reduction in afforestation using coniferous trees rather than in an increase in planting of broadleaves.
Land Cover in Ireland 1990-2012
Despite rapid development in the last two decades, Ireland's landscape is predominantly rural and agricultural. Artificial surfaces account for just under 2.5 per cent of the land surface, significantly below the Europe-wide average of 4 per cent. Agriculture and forestry land-use account for 67 per cent and 9 per cent of the national land area respectively with wetlands accounting for a further 15 per cent.
Organic Agricultural Land 2012
Land used for organic farming in Ireland grew by 180 per cent between 1997 and 2012, when it accounted for just over 52,000 hectares (1.2 per cent of total agricultural land). This is the second smallest percentage of agricultural land given over to organic farming in the EU. Austria, with 19.7 per cent, had the highest percentage of agricultural land farmed organically.