Ireland exceeds its emissions budget by 5 million tonnes and moves further from climate commitments

Date released: Oct 23 2019

Ireland exceeds its emissions budget by 5 million tonnes and moves further from climate commitments

  • Ireland exceeded its annual emissions allocation for 2018 under the EU’s Effort Sharing Decision by over 5 million tonnes. This follows an exceedance of 3 million tonnes in 2017.
  • Overall, Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions showed a marginal decrease of 0.2 % (0.14 Mt CO2 eq) in 2018. The decrease resulted from significant reductions in the energy sector which were offset by growth in emissions from households, transport, and agriculture.
  • These figures show that Ireland is falling short in terms of lowering our emissions, achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and playing our part in responding to global climate change which requires holding the increase in the global temperature to well below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels.
  • We need swift implementation of the 2019 Climate Action Plan to put Ireland on the right track to meet its commitments.

23rd October 2019: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as the competent authority for reporting Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions, has today published its provisional greenhouse gas emissions for Ireland for 2018. The figures show Ireland exceeded its emissions budget for the third year running, but had a marginal decrease of 0.2 % (0.14 Mt CO2eq) with total national emissions estimated at 60.5 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq).

 Commenting, Dr. Eimear Cotter, Director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability, said:

“Ireland has exceeded its annual EU emissions budget for the third year in a row, and by a margin of over 5 million tonnes. At a time of global urgency to address climate change this is a national trend that we must reverse. It is time for businesses and communities to support and be supported in taking action to reduce emissions. Ireland must implement the ambitious commitments in the 2019 Climate Action Plan to play its role in averting the worst impacts of climate change”

Household emissions increased by 7.9% (0.46 Mt CO2eq) which reflected a colder winter in 2018. This increased demand for home heating – with oil still the predominant heating fuel - reflects the scale of the challenge to increase the resilience of our housing stock to extreme weather events, in terms of energy efficiency and use of renewable energy.

Transport emissions increased by 1.7% in 2018 (0.20 Mt CO2eq). This is the fifth year out of the last six with increased emissions in transport reflecting our growing economy with more movement of people and goods. In road transport in 2018, petrol use continued to decrease by 9.2% while diesel use increased by 4.6% and biofuels use decreased by 4.0%. Reversing this trend will require the widespread transition to electric vehicles, increased use of public transport and reducing the number of car journeys.

Agriculture emissions increased by 1.9% in 2018 (0.38 Mt CO2eq). The most significant drivers are higher dairy cow numbers (+2.7%) which reflects national plans to expand milk production. Dairy cow numbers have increased by 27% in the last five years while greenhouse gas emissions increased by 8% over that time. While agricultural production has gained some efficiency over this period, these gains will not be sufficient to deliver overall emission reductions. Full implementation of the measures outlined in the Climate Action Plan are required.

Energy Industry emissions decreased by 11.7% (1.38 Mt CO2eq) in 2018. The most significant change in fuel used was a decrease in coal (44%), largely driven by maintenance works at the Moneypoint generating station, and an increase in renewable energy.  In 2018, electricity generated from wind increased by 14% with the proportion of electricity generation from renewables now at 32.6%. This has resulted in a reduction in emissions intensity of electricity generation from 437 g CO2/kWh in 2017 to 377 g CO2/kWh in 2018.

Concluding Stephen Treacy, Senior Manager in the Office of Environmental Sustainability, said:

“These figures show the positive impact of reduced use of carbon-intensive fuels such as coal in power generation, whether intentionally or otherwise, on achieving significant emissions reductions. However, emission increases in the transport and agriculture sectors in 2018 were largely driven by increased activity, highlighting that emissions in these sectors are still closely coupled with economic growth. Breaking this link requires urgent behavioural change across all sectors of Irish society.”

See full detail on these figures in the EPA report Ireland’s Provisional Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2018 on the EPA website.

The EPA has today launched a new Greenhouse Gas Emissions web resource, providing information in a more accessible format. Users can easily download graphs and tables and perform their own additional analysis.

Tables and Notes

An overview of changes in emissions since the previous year is presented in Table 1 and distance to EU targets in Table 2.

More trend figures, tables and background information available on the EPA website

Table 1. Provisional greenhouse gas emissions for 2017 and 2018 for Ireland

Mt CO2 eq20172018% change
Agriculture 20.221 20.597 1.9%
Transport 12.005 12.203 1.7%
Energy Industries 11.744 10.365 -11.7%
Residential 5.741 6.197 7.9%
Manufacturing Combustion 4.565 4.741 3.9%
Industrial Processes 2.270 2.316 2.0%
Commercial Services 1.072 1.129 5.3%
F-Gases 1.212 1.088 -10.2%
Public Services 0.906 0.980 8.2%
Waste 0.916 0.891 -2.8%
Total 60.651 60.507 -0.2%

 * Final figures will be submitted to the EU and UN in March and April 2020 in line with the agreed reporting timetable.


Table 2. Compliance with EU Effort Sharing Decision Targets 2013-2020

   20132014  2015 20162017 2018  2019 2020 
A Total greenhouse gas emissions without LULUCF1   57,903.4  57,626.0  59,878.2  61,545.8  60,743.7  60,506.9  0.0  0.0  kt CO2 eq
B  NF3 emissions  0.9  1.0  1.0  1.0  1.3  1.3  0.0  0.0  kt CO2 eq
C  Total greenhouse gas emissions without LULUCF and without NF3 emissions  57,902.5  57,625.1  59,877.3  61,544.9  60,742.5  60,505.6  0.0  0.0  kt CO2 eq
D  Total verified emissions from stationary installations under Directive 2003/87/EC2  15,685.7  15,952.7  16,829.7  17,737.0  16,896.4  15,515.0  0.0  0.0  kt CO2 eq
E  CO2 emissions from 1.A.3.a domestic aviation  10.0  9.4  10.4  9.7  17.3  16.6  0.0  0.0  kt CO2 eq
F  Total ESD emissions (=C-D-E)  42,206.8  41,663.0  43,037.2  43,798.2  43,828.7  44,974.0  0.0  0.0  kt CO2 eq
G  EU ESD Targets  46,891.9 45,760.9 44,629.9 43,498.9  40,885.1  39,807.1  38,729.2  37,651.3  kt CO2 eq
   Distance to target (=F-G)  -4,685.1  -4,097.9  -1,592.7  299.3  2,943.7  5,166.8      kt CO2 eq


Note: Information in tables for 2013 - 2017 show data that has been reviewed, and compliance agreed, by the European Commission under Article 19 of the MMR No. 525/2013


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 (Hydroflurocarbons), PFCs (Perfluorcarbons), 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 Greenhouse Gas Sectors:  include the following ten 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 in ETS and non-ETS)
  4. Commercial Services (combustion for Commercial Services space and hot water heating)
  5. Public Services (combustion for Public services space and hot water heating)
  6. Transport (combustion of fuel used in road, rail, navigation, domestic aviation and pipeline gas transport)
  7. Industrial Processes (process emissions from mineral, chemical, metal industries, non-energy products and solvents)
  8. F-Gases (gases used in refrigeration, air conditioning and semiconductor manufacture)
  9. Agriculture (emissions from fertiliser application, ruminant digestion, manure management, agricultural soils and fuel used in agriculture/forestry/fishing)
  10. Waste (emissions from solid waste disposal on land, solid waste treatment (composting), wastewater treatment, waste incineration and open burning of waste).