Ireland's GHG Projections 2008 - 2012

Date released: Mar 12 2009

Greenhouse gas emissions projections reflect impact of economic downturn.
Role of carbon sinks (such as increased afforestation) crucial to meeting 2020 emissions target.
Investment in energy efficiencies and renewable energies must be maintained.
Agriculture, energy and transport are key sources of emissions.

The EPA today released projected emissions of Ireland’s greenhouse gases up to 2020, as mandated under the National Climate Change Strategy. These projections update those published in September 2008. They give a picture of Ireland’s ability to meet international targets with respect to greenhouse gas emissions, if current and planned policies and programmes are implemented, taking into account the slow-down in the economy.

The EPA projections reflect the reduced activity due to the economic downturn, but even with this, and with all plans and measures implemented on time and delivering to their fullest extent, there is still an ongoing challenge for Ireland to meet its obligations under both the Kyoto Protocol and under the EU 2020 binding targets. The projections are reported on a sectoral basis and highlight, once again, that the key sectors contributing to greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland are agriculture, energy and transport.

Commenting on the projections Dr Mary Kelly, Director General, EPA said,

“Publication of national greenhouse gas projections is an important step in understanding Ireland’s greenhouse gas profile in the medium term, and in assessing the effectiveness of policy measures designed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.  The projections published today show the impact of the slowdown in the economy, however simply because emissions are reducing due to the economic downturn must not lead to complacency. It is imperative that Ireland decouples greenhouse gas emissions from economic activity, while at the same time implementing all the proposed policy measures in full and on time, so that when a return to growth occurs  we do not simply end up in even greater difficulties.  Ireland needs to prepare for low carbon economic growth.”

Greenhouse gas emission projections have been produced by the EPA, for both the Kyoto period and up to 2020, under two different policy scenarios, which indicate the potential outlook for greenhouse gas emissions. The two scenarios are a with measures scenario and a with additional measures scenario. Both scenarios are based on SEI’s energy forecasts published in December 2008 and, in addition, consideration is taken of the most recent macro economic assumptions from the ESRI’s Economic Shock analysis which assumes that GNP will contract by 7% between 2007 and 2010.  Agricultural emissions projections are based on data recently received from Teagasc and take into account the gradual removal of milk quota under reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Comparison with Kyoto Protocol Limit (2008 – 2012)
The Kyoto Protocol limits Ireland’s total national emissions to an average of 62.8 million tonnes (Mtonnes) of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per year in the period 2008 – 2012.  This is 13 per cent above the baseline estimate. 

The projections indicate the level of total national greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland over the Kyoto period and, therefore, indicate our distance to the Kyoto Protocol limit under the two scenarios.

Applying the Economic Shock Analysis to the with additional measures scenario, (which is the most ambitious reduction scenario), the Government’s purchasing requirement (or need for additional domestic policies and measures) would reduce to 1.3-1.8 Mtonnes of CO2e per annum for each of the five years 2008-2012 as compared to the 3.6 Mtonnes per annum anticipated in the National Climate Change Strategy.

Commenting on the lower purchasing requirements forecast Dr Kelly said :

“The lower projected purchasing requirements under the Economic Shock analysis also depend critically on all relevant policies and measures being implemented, delivered on time and achieving the full anticipated emissions reductions.  The challenges associated with meeting these criteria should not be underestimated.  In particular, investments in energy efficiency measures and renewable energies will be crucial”.

Comparison with EU 2020 Targets for non-ETS sector emissions
A second, and different, legally binding target will apply to Ireland under the EU Commission’s Energy and Climate Package, agreed by EU Parliament and Council in December 2008. The EU Commission’s package initially requires Ireland to deliver a 20 per cent reduction, relative to 2005 levels, in greenhouse gas emissions.  This target is to be reached by 2020 and excludes the sectors covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

“A 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the non-trading sector is going to be very difficult to achieve without radical change.  The non-trading sector consists of agriculture, transport, residential and other sectors, but excludes the energy and large industrial sectors -which are being dealt with under the cap and trade system of the Emissions Trading Directive,”said Dr Kelly.

She continued:

“The profile of greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland is unusual in the European context, with agriculture currently accounting for 27 per cent of all emissions and 40 per cent of emissions in the non-trading sector.  This makes it very difficult to effect actual reductions on the scale required in the non-trading sector.”

Under the with additional measures scenario, non-ETS sector emissions are projected to be 7 Mtonnes of CO2e higher in 2020 than the binding target for that year.

It was also agreed by the EU Council and Parliament in December 2008 that, in the event that an international agreement on global reductions is not reached, Member States may include emissions and removals from activities related to land-use, land-use change and forestry towards meeting the 20 per cent reduction target. Including the impact of carbon sinks (increased afforestation) reduces the distance to the 2020 target to 2.7 Mtonnes of CO2e and highlights the crucial role these sinks, such as afforestation, will play in meeting our limit as they are anticipated to provide over half of the 7 Mtonnes of CO2e gap remaining.

Dr. Ken Macken, Programme Manager, EPA Climate Change Unit added:

“It is clear from EPA projections that meeting Kyoto targets in 2012 will be possible with the purchase of carbon credits or implementation of additional policies and measures.  Meeting the 2020 targets will be much more difficult with the non-trading sector projected to exceed the EU target by 3.8 million tonnes even when all planned measures and the use of forest sinks are included.”

He continued:  “It will be essential to reduce Ireland’s dependence on fossil fuels and ensure that very significant increases are achieved in the use of alternative energy sources.  The role of research will be crucial, particularly in regard to examining all possible options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture and transport sectors, but also in regard to identifying and implementing new technology options.  The inclusion of forest sinks is crucial for Ireland.”

Download the EPA Projections of greenhouse gas emissions to 2020.

Further information: Niamh Leahy, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours)
Editor’s Note:
EPA Emission Projection Scenarios

The EPA has two scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions which are described as follows:

  1. the with measures scenario is based on existing and currently implemented policies and measures.
  2. the with additional measures scenario adjusts the with measures scenario to account for all existing and currently planned policies and measures. Planned policies and measures include the renewable energy targets and energy efficiency targets as set out in the Energy White Paper and the revised Energy Efficiency Action Plan.

Emissions reductions under the with additional measures scenario are projected to be delivered through policies and measures outlined primarily in the Energy White Paper and the revised Energy Efficiency Action Plan. The impact of these measures will be realised mainly in the period 2012 to 2020.

Assumptions underlying these projections are that:

  1. all relevant policies and measures outlined in current Government policy documents will be adopted and fully implemented on time and
  2. all relevant measures will achieve the full emissions reductions anticipated.

Failure to deliver on any of these measures or a reduction in their environmental effectiveness will result in higher emissions levels than projected. The difficulties associated with meeting these criteria should not be underestimated.
Energy Forecasts Underpinning Energy-Related Emissions Projections
These projections are underpinned by data provided by a range of other State agencies and organisations, most notably Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) for energy forecasts and Teagasc for forecast animal numbers. Energy-related emissions projections are based on energy forecasts published by SEI in December 2008.

When publishing the energy forecasts, SEI stated that “these forecasts were produced during September and October 2008 and by November ESRI anticipates that there would be even lower growth in 2008-2009, although it is not expected to cause significant deviation in the 2020 projection”. As a result, an Economic Shock analysis was carried out as part of a sensitivity analysis. In the Economic Shock analysis, ESRI assume that GNP will contract by 7 per cent between 2007 and 2010, grow by 33 per cent between 2010 and 2015 and 24 per cent between 2015 and 2020. In terms of GDP, the ESRI assume that GDP will contract by 8 per cent between 2007 and 2010, grow by 33 per cent between 2010 and 2015 and 25 per cent between 2015 and 2020. The scenario assumes that there will be a permanent loss in output or a scarring effect, so that the level of GNP will be 5 per cent below the SEI Baseline energy forecast in the long run and 4 per cent lower for GDP. The economic forecast underlying the Economic Shock analysis is consistent with the ESRI’s Winter 2008 Quarterly Economic Commentary.

Government Use of Kyoto Mechanisms or Additional Domestic Action for the Kyoto Period
To determine the Government’s use of Kyoto Mechanisms or the need for additional domestic action, the ‘allowable’ emissions from the non-ETS sectors are first calculated. This is calculated as :

Ireland’s annual averaged limit under the Kyoto Protocol (62.8 Mtonnes of CO2e) – annual allocation to ETS sectors as set out in the second National Allocation Plan (22.3 million allowances) = 40.6 Mtonnes of CO2e attributable to non-ETS sectors.

This figure is compared with projected emissions from non-ETS sectors (44.2 Mtonnes of CO2e under the with additional measures scenario or 41.8 to 42.3 Mtonnes of CO2e when the Economic Shock Analysis is applied) to find the implications for the Government in terms of using Kyoto Mechanisms or implementing additional domestic policies and measures.

Estimates of future emissions are inherently uncertain. Therefore, projections need to be continually updated and refined to take account of the most recent socioeconomic, technological and policy developments, to update key assumptions and to take account of better data and better models as they become available. Emissions projections for all sectors will be updated on an annual basis to ensure that all relevant developments are captured and incorporated.