Key messages

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Ireland decreased 4.4% in 2019.  The decrease in emissions are reflected in most sectors with the exception of a slight increase in commercial / public services. Despite the decrease, Ireland is still not on the pathway required to meet future targets and a climate neutral economy.

key messages regarding greenhouse gas emissions

Agriculture emissions decreased by 4.1% in 2019 (0.87 Mt CO2eq). The main reasons are reductions of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use of 10.1% and in liming of soils by 25.4%. This follows substantial increase in both fertiliser and lime use in 2018. It is worth noting that agricultural emissions in 2018 were the highest in the thirty-year time series. The national dairy herd continued to increase in 2019 (nine years in a row), with higher numbers of dairy cows (+2.8%) and increased milk production of 5.3%. 

Energy industry emissions decreased by 11.2% (1.19 Mt CO2eq) in 2019. The most significant change in fuel used was a decrease in coal (as a result of reduced combustion at the Moneypoint generating station) and an increase in renewable energy.

In 2019 electricity generated:

  • From coal – decreased by 76%
  • From wind energy – increased by 16.0%
  • From renewable energy – increased to 37.6% of all electricity generated in Ireland 

Household emissions (the residential sector) decreased by 7.3% (0.52 Mt CO2eq) in 2019. The winter of 2018 was particularly cold which led to a high demand for home heating (especially oil) during 2018. There were fewer heating days in 2019 due to a comparatively warmer period between January and April. 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 0.3% in 2019 (0.04 Mt CO2eq). A small decrease in emissions occurred despite an increase in the number of vehicles (by approximately 80,000) in 2019. This reflects an increase in efficiency which can be attributed to both new vehicles and an increase in biofuels as well as a continued decrease in petrol use in 2019.

In road transport in 2019:

  • Diesel use increased by 0.8%
  • Petrol use decreased by 5.8%
  • Biofuels use decreased by 20.2%

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.

Further findings of GHG emissions 2019

  • The EPA produced final estimates of GHG emissions for the period 1990-2019 which indicate that Ireland exceeded its 2019 annual limit set under the EU’s Effort Sharing Decision (ESD), 406/2009/EC by 6.85 Mt CO2eq.
  • For 2019, total national GHG emissions are estimated to be 59.78 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2eq). This is 4.4% lower (2.75 Mt CO2eq) than emissions in 2018.
  •  In 2019, emissions in the European Union’s Emissions Trading Sector (ETS) decreased by 8.7% or 1.34 Mt CO2eq and ESD emissions decreased by 3.0% or 1.41 Mt CO2eq.
  • Agriculture and transport sectors accounted for 72.9% of total ESD emissions in 2019.
  • Commercial services and public services sectors increased by 1.8% and 1.2% respectively in 2019.
  • Emissions from the manufacturing combustion[1] sector decreased by 0.1 Mt CO2eq or 2.0% in 2019 with the largest decrease coming from the food processing, beverages and tobacco sector where for the first time no coal was consumed within this sub-sector.
  • The industrial processes sector emissions decreased by 1.3% or 0.03 Mt CO2eq, mainly due to decreased cement production. Mineral products subsector (including cement) process emissions decreased by 1.8% in 2019.
  • Emissions from the waste sector decreased by 0.4% or 0.004 Mt CO2eq in 2019.
  • 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 (2019) levels by 3% by 2030 under the With Existing Measures scenario and by 20% 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 11.3%, 13.4% and 24.8% respectively over the period 2020 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.