Ireland will not meet its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. Action is needed now to meet 2030 EU targets

Date released: June 22, 2021

  • Ireland will not meet 2013-2020 EU targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
  • Ireland can meet our current EU commitments over the 2021 to 2030 period, if all current plans and policies are fully implemented.
  • Projections indicate that under the best case scenario, with all the measures set out in the 2019 Climate Action Plan fully implemented, Irelands 2030 emissions will be 24 per cent lower than 2018 levels.
  • In order to achieve a 51 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 significant new measures will need to be identified and implemented across all sectors.

22 June 2021: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today published its Greenhouse Gas emissions projections for the period 2020-2040, which will form part of the discussions at the EPA Climate Conference taking place tomorrow. They show Ireland is projected to have exceeded its 2013-2020 EU Effort Sharing Decision target by 12.2 Mt CO2 eq, but that it can meet its current EU 2021-2030 target with full implementation of the measures in the 2019 Climate Action Plan. This would result in a 2% per annum emissions reduction pathway from 2021 to 2030.

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

“These projections show that the next decade needs to be one of major developments and advances in relation to Ireland’s response to climate change. Full implementation of all current policies and plans by all sectors would reduce Irelands greenhouse gas emissions by 2 per cent per year, which is the minimum needed to meet our current 2030 EU targets.”

Ms Burke added:

“However, for Ireland to meet the more ambitious targets as presented in the European Climate Law and Ireland's Climate Bill, and to transform to a climate resilient, biodiversity rich and climate neutral economy by 2050, there needs to be a significant and immediate increase in the scale and pace of greenhouse gas emission reductions. A ‘green recovery’ will give Ireland an opportunity to rebuild our economy and generate new jobs while responding to this challenge.”

The projections show the impact of Covid-19 lockdown on emissions for 2020 and 2021 as a result of a dramatic decline in economic activity and travel in the short term. To avoid a surge in emissions as the economy recovers, as a minimum the full range of actions already committed to must be implemented without delay. These measures are projected to contribute to emissions savings of 58 Mt CO2 eq. by 2030 when compared to existing measures. These include:


A reduction of at least 16.5 Mt CO2 eq. between 2021 and 2030 is achievable by accelerated uptake of 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 additional emission saving from the sector of 13.2 Mt CO2 eq over the period 2021 to 2030.


Renewable energy providing 70% of electricity generated is projected to lead to a 25% reduction in Energy Industries emissions by 2030 requiring both on- and off-shore wind energy projects.

Home Heating

The installation of 600,000 heat pumps and the retrofitting of 500,000 homes for improved energy efficiency by 2030 is projected to reduce the energy used for space and water heating in our homes by 44% by 2030. This will make our homes healthier and more comfortable places to live.

Commenting, Stephen Treacy, Senior Manager, EPA said:

“Ireland needs to improve on its past record of performance in the implementation of climate policies and measures. As far back as 2015 EPA projections indicated that 2020 EU targets could be met with the implementation of identified measures. Faster than anticipated emissions growth from key sectors and slow implementation of measures resulted in the target being missed by a wide margin.”

See full detail on the Greenhouse Gas Emission Projections 2020 to 2040 on the EPA website and EPA Greenhouse Gas web resource.


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 2021.
  • 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 March 2021. 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 2019, 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 2019. 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 eq





Growth 2020-2030













Energy Industries












Manufacturing Combustion






Industrial Processes






Commercial/Public Services

























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

Pie chart of 2030 greenhouse gas projections

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).