Ireland’s EU Emissions Trading Scheme greenhouse gas emissions drop by 8.2 percent in 2018

Date released: April 05, 2019

The Environmental Protection Agency, as competent Authority in Ireland for the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, has today published details of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 for companies in the Scheme.  Emissions from Irish power generation and industrial companies in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme fell by 8.2 per cent in 2018 (i.e.,1.4 million tonnes) as compared to a decrease of approximately 4 per cent across Europe.

The decrease in emissions is due to a significant drop in power generation emissions (13.9 per cent decrease) as a result of ESB Moneypoint coal-fired plant being off-line for the last three months of 2018 and, in addition, the strong presence of renewable energy, mainly wind generation.

Conversely, greenhouse gas emissions from the main industrial sources increased in 2018 on 2017 levels. Cement industries recorded a 4.7 per cent increase; the dairy industry showed a 3.6 per cent increase and emissions from pharmachem industries also increased, by 8.8 per cent. These increases are happening as a result of strong economic growth, leading to higher industrial activity.

Dr Maria Martin, EPA Senior Manager, said:

“We welcome this overall decrease in emissions. This is the second year in a row that we have seen a fall in greenhouse gas emissions from participants in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. While there has been a positive move to lower use of fossil fuels in electricity generation, we note that much of the decrease in emissions in 2018 was due to ESB Moneypoint being off-line.

“Strong economic growth is reflected in higher emissions from industrial activities such as cement, dairy and pharmachem. This is despite a higher carbon price in 2018 compared with previous years, at around €20 per tonne. Carbon prices will need to increase further to drive investment in low carbon technologies and fuel switching.”

In Ireland, 102 major industrial and institutional sites participate in the Emissions Trading Scheme. These include sites operating in the power generation, cement, lime, and oil refining sectors. Also included are large companies in sectors such as food & drink, pharmaceuticals and semi-conductors.

Flights within the European Economic Area are also included in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Aviation emissions from flights within the European Economic Area reported to Ireland rose by 6.8 per cent compared to 2017, to 12.42 million tonnes.

Further details about Emissions Trading  are available on the EPA website. Further information about Ireland’s total greenhouse gas emissions is also available.

The EPA has developed a useful Infographic entitled The Simple Guide to Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Notes to Editor:

The EU Emissions Trading Scheme covers large energy users and electricity generators, these are known as “stationary installations”. Mobile sources in the form of large aircraft were introduced into the scheme for the first time in 2012. Emissions from aviation showed a 6.8 per cent increase in 2018 compared to 2017. These emissions come from flights in and out of Ireland and also flights anywhere within the European Economic Area (EEA) where the aircraft carrier has an operating licence from the Irish Aviation Authority.

For comparative purposes Ireland's verified  EU Emissions Trading Scheme emissions since 2005 were as follows (keep in mind that from year to year the scope of the scheme can change somewhat as some installations close and new ones open):

Verified Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Mtonnes CO2) - Stationary Installations:

CO2 22.43 21.7 21.25 20.38 17.22 17.36 15.77 16.89 15.68 15.95 16.83 17.73 16.89 15.51

European emissions figures: The decrease of approximately 4 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 across Europe in Emissions Trading Scheme emissions in comparison to 2017 is an estimate by Carbon Pulse based on preliminary analysis of EEA wide data published by the EU Commission on 1 April.

Details of the emissions are available on the EU’s website. The data are not complete for all Member States.

Emissions Trading: Emissions trading is a “Cap and Trade” scheme where an EU wide limit or cap is set for participating installations. The cap is reduced over time so that total emissions fall. Within that limit “allowances” for emissions are auctioned or allocated for free (outside the power generation sector). Individual installations must report their CO2 emissions each year and surrender sufficient allowances to cover their emissions. If their available allowances are exceeded an installation must purchase allowances. If an installation has succeeded in reducing its emissions, it can sell its leftover allowances.  The system is designed to bring about reductions in emissions at least cost, and is envisaged to play an increasingly important role in assisting European industry implement the type of reductions envisaged in the EU Commission’s limit of at least an overall 20 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by 2020.

The Environmental Protection Agency is the competent authority for implementation of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme in Ireland including the administering of accounts on Ireland’s domain in the Union Registry. Currently there are 102 stationary installations with open accounts and two more are due to open accounts this year. Thirteen aviation operators are also currently included in the scheme including six large Irish licensed commercial airlines.

International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Assembly Resolution A39-3 decided to implement a global Market Based Mechanism in the form of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) to address any annual increase in total CO2 emissions from international civil aviation (i.e. civil aviation flights that depart in one country and arrive in a different country) above 2020 levels, taking into account special circumstances and respective capabilities. In view of the CORSIA and to facilitate its implementation, aircraft operators in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme are only required to report and surrender in relation to emissions from flights within the EEA for the period 2017 – 2023. This “reduced scope” was already in operation from 2013-2016 in order to facilitate progress on international aviation emission reductions at the ICAO.