Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Ireland increased 5.2% in 2021. The increase in emissions are reflected in most of the large sectors with the exception of decreases in residential, waste, commercial and public services sectors. There was also an 4.2% increase in Land Use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF).
Agriculture emission increased by 3.6% in 2021 (0.82 Mt CO2eq). The main reasons are increases of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser use of 5.2% and in liming of soils by 49.5%. The numbers of livestock increased, including dairy cows by 2.8%, other cattle 0.3%, sheep 0.3% and pigs 4.5% in 2021. Total milk production increased by 5.5% in 2021 with milk output per cow also increasing 2.5%.
Energy industry emissions increased by 17.6% (1.53 Mt CO2eq) in 2021. The most significant change in fuel used was an increase in both coal and oil and a decrease in renewable energy used for electricity generation.
In 2021 emissions in electricity generation:
Household emissions (the residential sector) decreased by 6.0% (0.44 Mt CO₂eq) in 2021. The reduction was caused by a combination of: reduced time in the home due the partial lifting of COVID restrictions, a milder winter and increased fuel prices. Coal, Peat and kerosene sales declined by 4.9%, 5.0% and 11.8% respectively, whilst natural gas and heating oil showed an increase of 0.9% and 4.6% respectively. 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 increased by 6.7% in 2021 (0.69 Mt CO2eq). This increase was largely caused by the partial lifting of COVID travel restrictions on passenger car and public transport usage. Electric Vehicles now account for almost 24% of the 2025 policy target.
In road transport in 2021:
This downward trend in emissions from transport can be continued if the proposed trajectory for biofuel blends can be achieved and if people change to electric vehicles, reduce their number of car journeys and increase their use of public transport, walkways and cycleways.
The impact of Electric Vehicles in reducing Transport emissions is still very low due to the low number in the vehicle fleet but they are projected to contribute substantially to emissions reductions towards the latter half of the 2020s. However, many more measures will need to be implemented to counter the projected increase in the overall fleet.
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 2016. Agriculture is the largest source of emissions, representing 38.0 per cent of total national emissions in 2021, based on final estimates. Both the transport and energy industries sectors represent 17.7 and 16.5 per cent respectively, of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2021. The transport sector has been the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Further information about Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions is available on our website.
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(Latest update June 2022)
Ireland's latest projections show total emissions (without LULUCF) decreasing from 2021 levels by 15.7% by 2030 under the With Existing Measures (WEM) scenario and by 31.7% under the With Additional Measures (WAM) 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 WEM scenario, emissions from agriculture and transport are projected to decrease by 0.7% and 5.2% respectively over the period 2021 to 2030. Emissions from energy industries are projected to decrease by 52% over the same period. When we look at the more ambitious WAM scenario, emissions from agriculture, transport and energy reduce by 21%, 32% and 61% respectively.
Full and early implementation of the 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.
Further information is available at the EPA's latest report Ireland' Greenhouse Gas Emissions Projections
Note: These projected emissions were published in June 2022 before the publication of the latest inventory emissions for 1990-2021 (published in March 2023). The projected emissions are estimated using the final 1990-2020 inventory data (published in March 2022). The projected 2021 emission data is therefore different to the 2021 inventory data.