Date released: May 24, 2023
24 May 2023: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today published its 2021 assessment of five key air pollutants which impact air quality, health and the environment. The pollutants are:
Ammonia emissions increased in 2021 by nearly 1%. Growth in livestock numbers, including a 3 per cent increase in dairy cow numbers, led to an increase in total national ammonia emissions. Increased use of low emission slurry spreading to 48 percent was not sufficient to counteract the impact of the overall growth in livestock numbers.
Ireland has not complied with EU National Emission Reduction Commitments for 9 of the past 10 years for ammonia emissions, which cause significant environmental damage to valuable ecosystems and can also impact local air quality and human health.
Commenting on the report Dr Eimear Cotter, Director of the EPA’s Office of Evidence and Assessment said:
"The EPA’s assessment shows that the impact of good practices that are currently being implemented at the farm level, such as low emission slurry spreading and the use of protected urea, are not enough to counteract the impact of increased livestock numbers and fertiliser use.
More and faster uptake of known measures is needed.
While compliance with the EU 2030 targets for ammonia is possible, it will be tight and is at risk should anything less than full implementation of all measures be delivered, or if the level of activity in the sector exceeds projections.“
The use of coal and fuel oil in power generation trebled in 2021 which led to increases in emissions of NOx, PM2.5 and SO2 illustrating the direct link between fossil fuel use and air pollutant emissions. Emissions of NOx increased by 3 per cent overall driven by increased fossil fuel use in power generation. These increases masked a decrease in NOx emissions from transport of almost 4 per cent in 2021 reflecting a continued improvement in vehicle NOx abatement technologies.
Commenting on the findings Stephen Treacy, Senior Manager said:
“The data shows the direct link between fossil fuel use and air pollutant emissions, highlighting the importance of accelerating Ireland’s transition towards renewables for the generation of heat and electricity, which will benefit both the climate and air quality.”
Emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) increased by 2 per cent in 2021, driven largely by increased activity in spirit production for beverages. While compliance with the NMVOC emission reduction commitment has been achieved, effective abatement measures for this source are needed if future emissions reduction targets are to be met.
For further detail on these figures, see the EPA report Ireland’s Air Pollutant Emissions 1990-2030 on the EPA website.
Further information: Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editor
UNECE Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP)
The LRTAP Convention of 1979 was the first international treaty to deal with air pollution on a broad regional basis. The signatories to the Convention agreed the principles of international cooperation for air pollution abatement. The number of substances covered by the Convention and its protocols has been gradually extended over time, notably to include ground-level ozone, persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals and particulate matter. The Gothenburg Protocol sets out national commitments to abate acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone and the European Union has set binding national emission reduction commitments for Ireland are in the EU transposition of the Protocol, the National Emission Reduction Commitments Ceiling Directive.
National Emission Reduction Commitments Directive
Directive (EU) 2016/2284 (replacing 2001/81/EC) ‘on the reduction of national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants’ sets national emission reduction commitments for Member States and the EU for five important air pollutants: nitrogen oxides, non-methane volatile organic compounds, sulphur dioxide, ammonia and fine particulate matter. The NEC Directive, which entered into force in December 2016, sets 2020 and 2030 emission reduction commitments for five main air pollutants
Five main air pollutants
Ireland is one of 14 EU Member States issued with a letter of formal notice by the European Commission, in January 2023, calling on countries to respect their emission reduction commitments as required by Directive 2016/2284. In Ireland’s case the letter related to the exceedance of the 2020 emission reduction commitment for ammonia.