Environmental Indicators

Ireland's Environment web resource is managed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Data for environmental indicators are provided by a range of partners and aims to draw on the most up-to-date openly published data.  Users can download this data in a variety of formats.  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.


AirStatus / Trend
Air Emissions: Nitrogen Oxides red face
Air Quality: Ground Level Ozone green face
Air Quality: Nitrogen Dioxide green face
Air Quality: Particulate Matter PM10  amber face

Air Emissions - Nitrogen Oxides

Emissions of NOx are currently well above the 2010 limit in the EU Directive on National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) and are expected to remain high in the short term, largely due to the difficulty in achieving significant reductions in emissions from road traffic.  Ireland is non-compliant with 2010 national emission reduction commitments as a result of applying improved emission inventory methods updated in accordance with scientific knowledge.  Consequently, under the NEC Directive 2016/2284 Ireland is allowed to use flexibility mechanisms to adjust NOx emissions.  With the use of these flexibilities, Ireland exceeds the emission ceiling in 2010 and is compliant with the NOx emission ceiling from 2011 onwards.  Ireland has new reduction commitments of 49% for 2020 and 69% for 2030 compared to 2005 levels.  Further information can be found in Ireland's Air Pollutant Emissions 2017 report.

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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.

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Air Quality - Nitrogen Dioxide

Nitrogen dioxide was measured at 15 stations in 2017. 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.

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Air Quality - PM10

PM10 was measured at 18 stations in 2017. 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.

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ClimateStatus / Trend
Greenhouse Gas Emissions: By Sector amber face
Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Projections to 2020 red face
Effort Sharing Decision Targets  Status for Indicator at Amber

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 34 per cent of total national emissions in 2018*.  Both the transport and energy industries sectors represent 20 and 17 per cent respectively, of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2018.  The transport sector has been the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, showing a 10 per cent increase between 2013 and 2018.

*Note these figures are based on the provisional figures for 2018, final estimates will be submitted under EU MMR 525/2013 by 15th March 2020.

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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 breached its annual obligation target for the first time in 2016 and again in 2017 and 2018*.  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 2018 to 2040.

*Note the inventory emissions are based on the provisional figures for 2018, final estimates will be submitted under EU MMR 525/2013 by 15 March 2020.

** Emissions projections are based on projections published in June 2019 with a baseline inventory of 1990-2017, measures outlined in the Climate action Plan 2019 will be included in 2020 projections.

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Effort Sharing Decision

Ireland’s non-Emissions Trading System (ETS) greenhouse gas emissions for 2013, 2014 and 2015 are in compliance with the European Union’s Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) targets, however, Ireland is not in compliance for 2016 (299.3kt CO2 eq) and 2017 (2,943.7kt CO2 eq) and 2018* (5,166.8 kt CO2 eq) above the annual limit.

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 ESD emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels.

*Note the inventory emissions are based on the provisional figures for 2018, final estimates will be submitted under EU MMR 525/2013 by 15 March 2020.

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WasteStatus / Trend
Biodegradable Waste Diversion from Landfill amber face
Household Waste per Capita green face
Recovery and Disposal of Municipal Waste amber face
Recovery of Packaging Waste green face

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 has met all targets to date and is on track to meet the final diversion target (due July 2020).

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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.

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Recovery and Disposal of Municipal Waste

Municipal waste is household as well as commercial and other waste that because of its nature or composition is similar to household waste.  Municipal sludges and effluents are not included in scope.  In 2016, 2.76 Mtonnes of municipal waste was generated.  Municipal waste recovery was at 74 per cent in 2016 (down from 79 per cent in 2014).

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Recovery of Packaging Waste

Ireland has been compliant with all statutory packaging recovery targets set since 2001.  Recycling and recovery percentages of 66 per cent and 87 per cent, respectively, were reported for 2017, exceeding the EU target of 55 and 60 per cent.

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NatureStatus / Trend
Conservation Status of Listed Habitats red face
Conservation Status of Listed Species Status for Indicator at Amber
Threatened Species Status for Indicator at Amber
Countryside Birds Status for Indicator at Amber

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.

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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”.

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Threatened Species

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.

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Changes in Countryside Birds 1998 – 2016

There is evidence from the Countryside Bird Survey (1998-2016) 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.

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Environment & WellbeingStatus / Trend
Air Quality - Particulate Matter PM2.5 Status for Indicator at Amber
Bathing Water Quality Smiley_Green
Drinking Water Quality Status for Indicator at Amber
Urban Wastewater Treatment Status for Indicator at Amber

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.

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Bathing Water Quality

Water quality at identified bathing areas remains high with 94 per cent meeting the mandatory standard of "Sufficient". Prior to 2011, assessment was based on Total and Faecal Coliforms plus Faecal Streptococci each year. Since 2011, E.coli and Intestinal Enterococci have been used and from 2014 assessment has been based on the last 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 86 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 Poor bathing waters up to at least “Sufficient” status.

Find out more about bathing water quality on the EPA's BEACHES website and in the 2018 Bathing Water Quality in Ireland report


  • Sufficient Water Quality - compliant with EU mandatory values (1998-2013) / At least Sufficient (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)


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Drinking Water Quality

The number of consumers served by public water supplies subject to a boil water notice was 879 people at the end of 2018 across ten drinking water supplies.  Nearly two-thirds of all boil water notices in 2018 were 'short-term', that is they were lifted in less than a month.  The number of public water supplies identified as being 'at risk' on the EPA Remedial Action List was at its lowest level of 63 supplies at the end of 2018.  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 2018, the quality of public water supplies remained very good with >99% of samples complying with mirobiological and chemical standards.  There has been an 88% reduction in E.coli detections since the EPA became the environmental regulator in 2007, but the EPA is concerned about an increase in detection of Cryptosporidium.  Irish Water needs to ensure that all necessary Cryptosporidium barriers are installed, maintained and operated correctly to protect public health.  The quality of drinking water from private supplies remains inferior to that of public supplies.

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Urban Waste Water Treatment

Waste water treatment at 21 of Ireland's 169 large urban areas did not meet EU treatment standards in 2018. Untreated waste water from the equivalent of 77,000 people across 36 towns and villages is released into the environment each day. Substantial and sustained investment is required to upgrade waste water treatment systems, prevent pollution and protect public health.

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WaterStatus / Trend
Nitrates in Groundwater Status for Indicator at Amber
River Water Quality - Phosphates Status for Indicator at Amber
Coastal Water Quality Smiley_Green
Transitional Water Quality Smiley_Red
 Lake Water Quality  amber face
River Water Quality amber face

Nitrates in Groundwater

Elevated nitrate concentration in groundwater continues to be 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.

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River Water Quality - Phosphates

Analysis of 2014-2016 data for orthophosphate in rivers (1,732 monitoring stations covering 708 rivers 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. A recent review of P trends covering 2006-2016 indicates stability with approximately 1/5th of stations showing slowly improving trends.

Please note the following mg/lP classifications: 

  • <0.025 mg/lP - Meets High EQ
  • S0.025 - 0.035 mg/lP - Meets Good EQS
  • >0.035 mg/lP - Moderate


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Coastal Water Quality 2010-2015

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 accidental or in some cases intentional discharges from marine vessels.  A total of 43 water bodies were assessed between 2010 and 2015. Of these, 79 per cent achieved good or high ecological status, accounting for 86 per cent of the total area assessed with the remaining percentage of waters at moderate or worse status. The overall status indicates that our coastal waters, except for some nutrient enriched areas along the south coast, are of excellent quality.

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Transitional Water Quality 2010-2015

Transitional waters, which are more commonly referred to as estuaries, 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 80 transitional water bodies were assessed between 2010 and 2015. Of these, 31 per cent were found to be at good or high ecological status, accounting for 24 per cent of the total area assessed. The remaining transitional water bodies were classed as moderate or worse ecological status.

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Lake Water Quality 2010-2015

The primary pressure on lakes is eutrophication resulting from nutrient enrichment mainly from diffuse sources. Two hundred and twenty five lakes representing 994km2 of lake surface area were monitored for the WFD in the period 2010-2015. Of these, 103 lakes (46 per cent of lakes monitored) were assigned high or good ecological status (414km2 of lake area monitored) and 122 lakes (54 per cent) were assigned moderate or worse status (580 km2 of lake area monitored).

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River Water Quality

Two thousand, three hundred and forty five river water bodies were surveyed in the period 2010-2015 representing 73% of Ireland's total of 3,192 river water bodies. 1,330 (57%) of monitored river water bodies were at high or good ecological status, with 1,015 (43%) at less than good ecological status. The more densely populated and economically developed eastern and north-eastern parts of the country are most affected by water quality issues. The number of bad status river water bodies declined from 19 in 2007-2009 to 6 in 2010-2015.

Nationally there has been a 1% decline in the number of high or good ecological status river water bodies in 2010–2015 when compared with the status reported in the first River Basin Management Plan in 2007–2009. A significant decline was observed in the number of high ecological status river water bodies from 287 in 2007–2009 to 245 in 2010–2015. 1,227 river water bodies remained stable with no ecological status change when compared with the assessments in 2007–2009 and 2010–2015. 418 river water bodies exhibited an improvement in ecological status while 499 river water bodies declined in status between 2007–2009 and 2010–2015.

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Sustainable EconomyStatus / Trend
Car Numbers & Engine Size Status for Indicator at Amber
Environmental Tax Revenue  amber face
Renewable Energy Production Status for Indicator at Amber
Total Final Energy Consumption by Fuel red face
Resource Productivity green face

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.

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Environmental Tax Revenue 2017

€5.2 billion of environment related taxes were collected in 2017, the highest level yet recorded.  Energy taxes (mainly taxes on transport fuels) accounted for 62% of total environment taxes in 2017 with another 37% coming from Transport taxes (including motor tax and vehicle registration tax). 


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Renewable Energy Production

Most of the growth in renewable energy has come from wind. Wind provided 52% of all renewable energy in 2017. Solid biomass and bioliquids were the next largest sources of growth. Bioenergy, including biomass, landfill gas, biogas and bioliquids, collectively accounted for 39% of renewable energy in 2017.  In 2016, gas imports fell by 53% due to new indigenous production from the Corrib gas field.  Gas imports fell by a further 17% in 2017.

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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.

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Resource Productivity

Resource productivity is a measure of the efficiency of resource use.

Ireland’s raw material resource consumption has improved considerably since 2000 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. There was an exception to this trend in 2013 due to changes in the domestic extraction of non-metallic minerals and fossil fuels.

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

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LandStatus / Trend
Afforestation green face
Land Cover green face
Organic Agricultural Land green face


In the Forestry Programme 2014-2020 a target was set to afforest an average of 7,235 hectares annually, which included a 30% target for broadleaf afforestation.  As a result of the positive differential in favour of broadleaf species in both the afforestation grant and premium schemes the proportion of broadleaves planted has significantly increased since 1993.

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Land Cover

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.

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Organic Agricultural Land 1990-2018

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.

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