The EPA today published its Annual Report and Accounts for 2021 highlighting its role as a regulator, knowledge provider and advocate for the environment.

Date released: October 25, 2022

The EPA today published its Annual Report and Accounts for 2021 highlighting its role as a regulator, knowledge provider and advocate for the environment.

Commenting on the publication of the report Laura Burke, EPA Director General, said:

"The EPA’s work toward a healthy, safe, and sustainable environment has never been more relevant. Ireland’s response to the wide range of environmental challenges requires action guided by high-quality science, data and analysis."

The EPA’s Annual Report and Accounts for 2021 provides an overview of progress made in delivering its strategy. Below are some of the key achievements in 2021.

2021 Highlights

Climate change:

The first report from the ‘Climate Change in the Irish Mind’ project showed the public’s overwhelming recognition of the threat from climate change – they feel personally affected by it and want to see real change.

The EPA, Met Éireann and the Marine Institute published a report on ‘The Status of Ireland’s Climate’ which showed how global climate changes are being reflected in Ireland’s atmosphere, oceans and landscape.
There was a small reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, at a time of profound change in economic and social activity due to the Covid-19 restrictions. This highlights the scale of action needed across all parts of our economy and society to meet the 51 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030 set within the 2021 Climate Act.

Waste and the Circular Economy:

National statistics on waste generation and management published in 2021 highlighted the continued rise in waste generation, which is linked to economic activity, while circular use of material remained low. Recycling rates for municipal waste and packaging waste declined, with more waste being sent for energy recovery.

In December 2021, the EPA launched the Circular Economy Programme which will be the driving force for Ireland’s transition to a circular economy.

Air Quality:

Particulate matter from solid fuel combustion and nitrogen dioxide from traffic emissions continued to be identified as the two key air quality issues in 2021.

The air quality monitoring network continued to be expanded in 2021 and the ‘LIFE Emerald’ project began, which will deliver a national forecast for air quality between monitoring stations.

Water and Waste Water:

While the quality of drinking water in public supplies remained high in 2021, resolution of at risk supplies on the remedial action list and increased vigilance in managerial oversight at plants is needed to protect public health.

Improvements in waste water treatment were evident in 2021, however the pace of delivery of essential improvements remained too slow to bring all deficient treatment systems up to standard.

The ‘Water Quality in 2020: An Indicators’ report published in July 2021 highlighted that surface waters and groundwaters continued to be under pressure from human activities, particularly from nitrogen and phosphorous from agriculture and urban waste water discharges.

Bathing water quality continued to improve with 96 per cent of identified bathing waters meeting or exceeding the minimum required standard.


The EPA’s National Radiation Monitoring Network continued to be upgraded and expanded during 2021.

An estimated 350 cases of lung cancer in Ireland every year are linked to the radioactive gas radon. Research on a new radon risk map in 2021 identified an opportunity to greatly increase people’s willingness to test their homes.

Licensing and Enforcement:

Licensing and permitting decisions undertaken in 2021 included high-profile facility expansions and greenfield investment activities in the pharmachem, cement, food and drink, waste, ICT and power sectors.

The EPA enforces over 800 industrial and waste licences and its enforcement teams used a risk-based approach to on-site inspections, incorporating Remote Compliance Assessments to adapt to Covid-19 restrictions. Inspectors responded to significant on-site environmental incidents, emergencies and complaints throughout 2021.

The EPA Annual Report and Accounts 2021 is available in both English and Irish on the EPA website.


Further information: Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or