We need to move away from fossil fuels, EPA emissions projections show

Date released: May 31 2018

  • Greenhouse gas emissions are projected to increase from most sectors, given strong economic growth and an expansion of the agriculture sector.
  • These figures show that, at best, Ireland will only achieve a 1% reduction by 2020 compared to a target of 20%. 
  • Fossil fuels such as coal and peat are expected to continue to be significant contributors to emissions from power generation.
  • Agriculture emissions are projected to increase with an expansion of animal numbers, particularly for the dairy herd.
  • Further growth in emissions from the transport sector is projected in line with a growth in fuel consumption in diesel cars and freight up to 2025.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) projections released today show that Ireland’s total greenhouse gas emissions will increase from current levels to 2020, underpinned by strong economic growth. This is despite an EU target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent on 2005 levels from the non-Emissions Trading Scheme (non-ETS) sector –  agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, non-energy intensive industry and waste. The latest projections show that, at best, Ireland will only achieve a one per cent reduction by 2020 compared to the 20 per cent reduction target. 

In relation to 2030, Ireland’s target calls for a 30 per cent reduction of emissions compared to 2005, with binding annual limits over the 2021-2030 period. These latest projections indicate that Ireland will exceed the allowable carbon budget implied by those limits by between 47-52Mt over the period, even assuming the allowed-for flexibilities are fully used.

The latest projections show that increasing fossil fuel consumption and an expanding agriculture sector are leading to increased emissions. In particular,

  • Energy industry emissions – mainly power generation – are projected to grow strongly from 2020 to 2025 as a result of an expansion of co-firing of peat and biomass;
  • Transport emissions are projected to increase from current levels by 17-18 per cent by 2020 and by 17-20 per cent by 2030.  A decline in emissions is projected from 2025 to 2030, resulting from an acceleration in the number of electric vehicles on Irish roads;
  • Agriculture emissions are projected to increase by between 3-4 per cent by 2020 and 6-7 per cent by 2030 on current levels based on an expansion of animal numbers, particularly for the dairy herd.

Commenting on the figures, Dr Eimear Cotter, Director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability, said,

“The EPA’s latest greenhouse gas emissions projections show that emissions will continue to grow in tandem with economic growth in the absence of significant new policy interventions. There will be strong growth in the short term in emissions from transport driven by increased fossil fuel consumption, while continued use of coal and peat in power generation offsets the addition of new renewable generation. Achieving stated commitments in relation to our national policy position and greenhouse gas emission reductions requires action on many fronts and across each sector. In particular, we are highlighting the need for a decisive move away from fossil fuels through significantly improved energy efficiency and the use of cleaner, renewable fuels.”

Ireland is committed to becoming a low carbon economy and society.  A significant number of new or extended measures have been announced in the recent National Development Plan and the National Mitigation Plan.
Stephen Treacy, EPA Senior Scientist said,

“Transforming our society to low carbon has associated climate and health benefits and our projections show that we are currently not on track to meet this ambition or meet our EU targets. The anticipated impact of the recently announced policies and measures has yet to be incorporated into the projections. This needs to happen as soon as possible to ensure that we have the best information available on Ireland’s future emissions’ trajectory and the impact of these Government policies.  This will inform robust policy decisions into the future.”

See full detail on the Greenhouse Gas Emission Projections 2017 to 2035 in the EPA web published report on the EPA website.


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 have their emissions controlled under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.  The second category (which is the main subject of the press release) 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 emission 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 emission projections:

  • Energy-related emission projections are based on energy projections provided to the Environmental Protection Agency by Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland in April 2018.
  • The energy projections are underpinned by macroeconomic projections supplied by the Economic and Social Research Institute
  • Agriculture emission projections are based on data from Teagasc which were provided to the Environmental Protection Agency in April 2018. Projections are based on an updated analysis undertaken by Teagasc of the projected national herd population, crop areas and fertilizer use which takes into account Food Wise 2025 policy targets and reflects recent trends in agricultural production.

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 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.

New 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 for achieving 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 2035 using two scenarios:

  • The With Existing Measures scenario assumes that no additional policies and measures, beyond those already in place by the end of 2016, are implemented.
  • The With Additional Measures scenario assumes implementation of the With Measures scenario in addition to, based on current progress, further implementation of Government renewable and energy efficiency policies and measures including those set out in the National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) and the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP).

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 eq2016202020252030Growth 2017-2030
Energy Industries  12.55  11.08  12.17  7.48  -40.3%
Residential  6.04  6.53  6.47  6.45  6.7%
Manufacturing Combustion  4.55  4.72  4.90  5.06  11.1%
Commercial and Public Services  1.86  1.68  1.81  1.94  4.3%
Transport  12.29  14.39  15.26 14.32   16.5%
Industrial Processes  2.14 2.43   2.83  3.27  52.34%
F-Gases  1.26  0.96  0.88  0.75  -40.5%
Agriculture  19.85  20.50  20.78  20.94  5.5%
Waste 0.95   0.57  0.49  0.44  -53.3%
Total  61.54  62.91  65.64  60.70  -1.3%

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

Pie chart of GHG projections 2017-3025
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).