Targeted climate and environmental actions needed for long term improvement says EPA

Date released: July 08, 2020

  • Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas emissions, with full implementation of the Climate Action Plan, are projected to decrease by an annual average reduction of 3% between 2021 and 2030.
  • Even further measures are required to meet national and EU ambition to keep global temperature increase to 1.5oC
  • Short term emission reductions due to Covid 19 do not negate the need for long term, targeted action across all sectors
  • Ireland will rely on maximising the use of land – for example grasslands, wetlands and forestry to meet targets

The projections show Ireland can meet our current EU target to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 30% by 2030.  This would require full implementation of the measures in the 2019 Climate Action Plan and would result in 3% average annual emissions reductions from 2021 to 2030.

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

“These latest projections demonstrate that if we implement the actions that are planned , and if all sectors get behind these, then we can reduce our Greenhouse Gas Emissions .  This is only the first step however,  and - for Ireland to become the low carbon and climate resilient society and economy that we aspire to -  systemic change is required. “

Ms Burke added:

“We are now at a pivotal point for our economy and the steps we take in our recovery will shape Ireland for the next decade. Focusing on climate action as part of a ‘green’ recovery stimulus offers the opportunity to rebuild our economy, generate new jobs and respond to climate change.

What Covid-19 has taught us is, that while the dramatic decline in economic activity and travel may have resulted in a reduction in greenhouse gases in the short term, long term improvements can only be achieved with targeted climate and environmental actions that change consumption and production systems in a sustainable and lasting manner.”

The EPA projections show significant emission reductions across transport, the energy sector and households with emissions from agriculture also projected to decrease. These emission reductions are to be achieved through a range of actions, committed to in the Climate Action Plan. These measures overall are projected to contribute to emissions savings of 79 Mt CO2 eq. by 2030. They include:


A reduction of at least 16.5 Mt CO2 eq. between 2021 and 2030, by implementing the measures such as low emissions slurry spreading techniques and switching to stabilised urea fertilisers for crops and pasture.


Almost 1 million electric vehicles on our roads by 2030, including 840,000 passenger EVs and 95,000 electric vans and trucks, will help achieve a projected decrease in emissions from the sector of 38% over the period to 2030.


70% renewable energy in electricity generation; the installation of 600,000 heat pumps and the retrofitting of 500,000 homes for improved energy efficiency to deliver, by 2030, a projected 34% reduction in Energy Industries emissions, a 53% reduction in Residential emissions and a 36% reduction in Commercial & Public services emissions.

Increased ambition at national and EU level to keep the global temperature increase to 1.5oC will, however, necessitate a further step-up, additional to the Climate Action Plan, in the pace and scale of emission reductions.

In addition, achievement of a low carbon pathway for Ireland and meeting future targets relies on maximising the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through improved land management, of, for example, forestry, grasslands and wetlands.

Commenting, Stephen Treacy, Senior Manager, EPA said:

“Appropriate land management is a vital part of action on climate change, not just in Ireland but also across Europe and globally.  Where land management is providing a store of carbon, this should be maintained or enhanced. Where land management is resulting in emissions of CO2, this source should be reduced or eliminated, and where land is degraded or has lost its ability to absorb or store carbon dioxide, it should be restored.”

The Covid-19 lockdown and dramatic decline in economic activity and travel will translate into emissions reductions in the short term. Early indications are that transport and electricity demand has declined since the beginning of the lockdown with diesel sales down over 20% in the year to end May, and petrol sales down over 30%. The impact of Covid-19 is not included in today’s figures and will be incorporated in the next round of projections.

The Greenhouse Gas Emission Projections 2019 to 2040 are available on the EPA website and further information can be found on the Greenhouse Gas web resource pages.


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 are controlled under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.  The second category deals with the non-Emissions Trading Scheme sectors such as agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, waste and non-energy intensive industry.

The Environmental Protection Agency produces greenhouse gas emissions 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 emissions projections:

  • Energy-related emissions projections are based on updated energy projections provided to the Environmental Protection Agency by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland in Q1 2020.
  • The energy projections were prepared in conjunction with the Economic and Social Research Institute who produced energy demand projections using the I3E model (Ireland Environment, Energy and Economy model).
  • Agriculture emissions projections are based on data from Teagasc which were provided to the Environmental Protection Agency in November 2019. Projections are based on an analysis undertaken by Teagasc of the projected national herd population, crop areas and fertiliser use which considers the impact of Food Wise 2025 for the agriculture sector.

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. 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.

On 14th May 2018, the European Council adopted a new regulation on greenhouse gas emission reductions. The regulation sets out binding emission reduction targets for member states in sectors falling outside the scope of the EU emissions trading system for the period 2021-2030.  The Regulation (Effort Sharing Regulation) maintains existing flexibilities under the current Effort Sharing Decision (e.g. banking, borrowing and buying and selling between Member States) and provides two new flexibilities to allow for a fair and cost-efficient achievement of the targets.

Flexibilities under the Effort Sharing Regulation include the allowance by eligible Member States to achieve their national targets by covering some emissions with EU ETS allowances which would normally have been auctioned. EU-wide, this cannot be more than a combined (EU-wide) total of 100 million tonnes CO2 over the period 2021-2030. Also, to stimulate additional action in the land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector, Member States can use up to a combined (EU-wide) total of 280 million credits over the entire period 2021-2030 to comply with their national targets. All Member States are eligible to make use of this flexibility if needed to achieve their target, while access is higher for Member States with a larger share of emissions from agriculture. This recognises that there is a lower mitigation potential for emissions from the agriculture sector.

The LULUCF flexibility allows for Ireland to account for greenhouse gas removals of up to 26.8Mt CO2eq over the compliance period. The ETS flexibility allows Ireland to transfer emissions of up to 4% of 2005 levels per annum from the non-ETS to ETS sector, reducing the mitigation requirement in the non-ETS sector while cancelling the corresponding ETS allowances.

Greenhouse gas emissions are projected to the year 2040 using two scenarios:

  • The With Existing Measures scenario assumes that no additional policies and measures, beyond those already in place by the end of 2018, are implemented. This is the cut off point for which the latest national greenhouse gas emission inventory data is available.
  • The With Additional Measures scenario assumes implementation of the With Existing Measures scenario in addition to implementation of planned government policies and measures adopted after the end of the 2018. Importantly, this includes Ireland’s 2019 Climate Action Plan. This Plan, published in June 2019, sets out a major programme of policies and measures aimed to help Ireland achieve its decarbonisation goals.

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 eq2018202020252030Growth 2019-2030
 Agriculture 20.63  20.39  19.31  18.08  -12.40%
 Transport  12.22  12.38  10.94  7.60  -37.83%
 Energy Industries  10.63  11.73  8.15  7.01  -34.08%
 Residential  6.20  6.17  4.71  2.93  -52.67%
 Manufacturing Combustion  4.74  5.48  5.15  5.05  6.52%
 Industrial Processes 2.32  2.45  2.82 3.25   40.54%
 Commercial/Public Services  2.11  2.12  1.76  1.34  -36.26%
 F-Gases  1.19  1.09 1.02   0.82  -31.28%
 Waste  0.89  0.81  0.67  0.59  -33.63%
 Total  60.93  62.64  54.54  46.68  -23.40%



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

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

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).