Key messages

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Ireland decreased 3.6% in 2020.  The decrease in emissions are reflected in most sectors with the exception of increases in residential, agriculture and public services. Despite the decrease, Ireland is still not on the pathway required to meet future targets and a climate neutral economy.


Agriculture emissions increased by 1.4% in 2020 (0.29 Mt CO₂eq). The main reasons are increases of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use of 3.3% and in liming of soils by 16.2%. The national dairy herd continued to increase in 2020 (ten years in a row), with higher numbers of dairy cows (+3.2%) and increased milk production of 3.8%.

Energy industry emissions decreased by 7.9% (0.74 Mt CO2eq) in 2020. The most significant change in fuel used was a decrease in peat and an increase in renewable energy used for electricity generation.

In 2020 electricity generated:

  • From peat – decreased by 51%
  • From wind energy – increased by 15.3%
  • From renewable energy – increased to 42.1% of all electricity generated in Ireland 

Household emissions (the residential sector) increased by 9.0% (0.59 Mt CO₂eq) in 2020. There were more heating days in 2020 compared to 2019 due to a comparatively colder period between February and March. In addition, home working due to COVID and low kerosene prices in early 2020 which impacted on fuel choices for heating in the early part of the year. This demonstrates the effect weather has on heating requirements and hence emissions from households. This shows the need to improve the energy efficiency of our housing stock and to increase the use of renewable energy. It is particularly important, given the increased frequency of extreme weather events.


Transport emissions decreased by 15.7% in 2020 (1.9 Mt CO2eq). A significant decrease in emissions occurred due to the impact of COVID restrictions on passenger car and public transport journeys.

In road transport in 2020:

  • Diesel use decreased by 14.4%
  • Petrol use decreased by 25.9%
  • Biodiesel and bioethanol use decreased by 4.2% and -25.8 % respectively

This downward trend in emissions from transport can be continued if people change to electric vehicles, reduce their number of car journeys and increase their use of public transport, walkways and cycleways.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions By Sector

Ireland's emissions profile has changed considerably since 1990, with the contribution from transport more than doubling and the share from agriculture reducing since 1998. However, since 2011, emissions have trended upwards again with an overall peak in emissions reported in 2018. Agriculture is the largest source of emissions, representing 37.1 per cent of total national emissions in 2020, based on provisional estimates. Both the transport and energy industries sectors represent 17.9 and 15.0 per cent respectively, of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. The transport sector has been the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, showing a 100 per cent increase between 1990 and 2020. Further information about Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions is available on our website.

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Status for Indicator at Amber

Further findings of GHG emissions 2020

  • The EPA produced provisional estimates of GHG emissions for the period 1990-2020 which indicate that Ireland exceeded its 2020 annual limit set under the EU’s Effort Sharing Decision (ESD), 406/2009/EC by 6.73 Mt CO2eq.
  • For 2020, total national GHG emissions are estimated to be 57.70 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2eq). This is 3.6% lower (2.14 Mt CO2eq) than emissions in 2019.
  •  In 2020, emissions in the European Union’s Emissions Trading Sector (ETS) decreased by 6.4% or 0.9 Mt CO2eq and ESD emissions decreased by 2.7% or 1.24 Mt CO2eq.
  • Agriculture and transport sectors accounted for 71.5% of total ESD emissions in 2020.
  • Commercial services emissions decreased by 0.3% and public services sector emissions increased by 1.0% in 2020.
  • Emissions from combustion in manufacturing industry[1] decreased by 0.1 Mt CO2eq or 1.5% in 2020. 
  • The industrial processes sector emissions decreased by 7.0% or 0.16 Mt CO2eq, mainly due to decreased cement production with most cement plants having extended closures in 2020 due to COVID restrictions. Mineral products subsector (including cement) process emissions decreased by 7.3% in 2020.
  • Emissions from the waste sector decreased by 0.8% or 0.01 Mt CO2eq in 2020.
  • Ireland’s National Policy position is to reduce CO2 emissions in 2050 by 80% on 1990 levels across the energy generation, built environment and transport sectors, with a goal of Climate neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector. The 2019 emissions show a large decrease in energy generation as well as decreased emissions in the agriculture, transport and residential sectors. Emissions from commercial and public services sectors are heading in the wrong direction.
    [1] Manufacturing combustion; includes combustion of fuels in Industry and construction, both in ETS and ESD

Ireland's projected emissions 2020-2030

Ireland's latest projections show total emissions decreasing from the latest Inventory (2020) levels by 2% by 2030 under the With Existing Measures scenario and by 19% under the With Additional Measures scenario. The gap between both scenarios is largely attributed to significant reductions in key sectors such as power generation, residential, transport, commercial and public services and agriculture as a result of the Climate Action Plan. Three key sectors; agriculture, transport and energy industries consistently have the largest share of emissions. Under the WAM scenario, emissions from agriculture, transport and energy industries, are projected to decrease by 10.0%, 17.0% and 35.2% respectively over the period 2021 to 2030.

GHG Projections infographic

Full and early implementation of the 2019 Climate Action Plan is needed if the savings projected in the With Additional Measures are to materialise. The scale and pace of the changes needed are significant, requiring much greater reliance on renewables, cross-cutting measures such as an €100 per tonne of CO2 carbon tax by 2030 and further ambitious measures in sectors such as transport, agriculture and power generation.