In 2021, Ireland’s GHG emissions are estimated to be 62.11 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2eq), which is 5.2% higher (or 3.05 Mt CO2 eq) than emissions in 2020 (59.06 Mt CO2 eq). There was a decrease of 3.4% in emissions reported for 2020 compared to 2019. Emissions are 1.5% higher than pre-pandemic 2019 figures.
In 2021 national total emissions excluding Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) increased by 5.2%, emissions in the stationary ETS sector increased by 15.2% and emissions under the ESR (Effort Sharing Regulation) increased by 2.2%. When LULUCF is included, total national emissions increased by 5.1%.
Increased emissions in 2021 compared to 2020 were observed in the largest sectors except for residential, waste and commercial and public services. These 4 sectors showed decreases in emissions (-6.0%, -3.0%, -2.0% and -3.4% respectively), shown highlighted green in the "Emissions change 2020-2021" table below.
Emissions per capita increased from an historic low of 11.9 tonnes CO2eq/person in 2020 to 12.4 tonnes CO2eq/person in 2021. Ireland’s average tonnes of GHG/capita over the last ten years were 12.8 tonnes. With recent CSO preliminary 2022 census data showing a population of 5.12 million people and with population projected to increase to 5.5 million in 2030, 5.9 million in 2040 and 6.2 million by 2050, per capita emissions need to reduce significantly. At current per capita emission levels, each addition 500,000 people would contribute an additional 6 million tonnes of CO2eq annually.
Arresting growth in emissions is a challenge in the context of a growing economy but one which must continue to be addressed by households, business, farmers and communities if Ireland is to reap the benefits of a low-carbon economy.
Show emissions change 2020-2021
|Mt CO2 eq||2020||2021||% Change|
|Total excluding LULUCF||59.057||62.109||5.2%|
|Total including LULUCF||66.099||69.447||5.1%|
Open in Excel: Change 2020-2021 by sector (XLS 11KB)
The greenhouse gas emission inventory for 2021 is the first of ten years over which compliance with targets set in the European Union’s Effort Sharing Regulation (EU 2018/842) will be assessed. This Regulation sets 2030 targets for emissions outside of the Emissions Trading Scheme (known as ESR emissions) and annual binding national limits for the period 2021-2030. Ireland’s target is to reduce ESR emissions by 30% by 2030 compared with 2005 levels, with a number of flexibilities available to assist in achieving this.
Ireland’s ESR emissions annual limit for 2021 is 43.48 Mt CO2eq. Ireland’s 2021 greenhouse gas ESR emissions are 46.77 Mt CO2eq, this is 3.29 Mt CO2eq more than the annual limit for 2021. This value is the national total emissions less emissions generated by stationary combustion and aviation operators that are within the EU’s emissions trading scheme. This indicates that Ireland is not in compliance with its 2021 Effort Sharing Regulation annual limit, exceeding the allocation by 1.38 Mt CO2eq after using the ETS flexibility. Agriculture and Transport accounted for 74.0% of total ESR emissions in 2021.
Ireland’s 2030 target under the EU’s Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) was to deliver a 30% reduction of emissions compared to 2005 levels by 2030. The ESR was amended in April 2023 and Ireland must now limit its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 42% by 2030. The ESR includes the sectors outside the scope of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) (such as Transport, Residential, Public Services and Commercial Services and Waste). The latest projections (June 2023) indicate that currently implemented measures (With Existing Measures) will achieve a reduction of 10% on 2005 levels by 2030, significantly short of the 42% reduction target. If measures in the higher ambition (With Additional Measures) scenario are implemented, EPA projections show that Ireland can achieve a reduction of 30% by 2030, still short of the 42% reduction target.
In terms of the 2030 targets, the ESR provides two flexibilities (use of ETS allowances and credit from action undertaken in the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector) to allow for a fair and cost-efficient achievement of the targets. The full LULUCF flexibility of 26.8 Mt CO2 eq (theoretically available under the ESR) was adjusted to take into account new research that led to a revision to the emission factor associated with forestry on organic (peat) soils. This led to decreased removals/increased emissions associated with forest land for all periods, with an available LULUCF flexibility of 9.3 Mt CO2 eq, significantly less than the theoretical flexibility available.
Effort Sharing Regulation emissions and targets
|Total greenhouse gas emissions without LULUCF||62,110|
|- Total verified emissions from stationary installations under Directive 2003/87/EC||15,320|
|- CO2 emissions from domestic aviation||20|
|Total ESR emissions||46,770|
|ESR Annual Emission Allocation||43,479||42,357||41,235||40,113||38,991||37,869||36,747||35,625||34,503||33,381|
|Gross distance to target||- 3,291|
|+ annualised ETS flexibility†||1,908||1,908||1,908||1,908||1,908||1,908||1,908||1,908||1,908||1,908|
|+ annualised projected LULUCF flexibility*||- 0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Net distance to target||- 1,383|
|* No flexibility projected to be available under the EPA's "With Existing Measures" scenario|
|† Set out in Annex II and Annex III of Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2020/2126|
Open in Excel: Effort Sharing Regulation emissions and targets (XLS 12KB)
As the graph below shows Ireland has higher than average emissions of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) because we have the highest agriculture emission contribution towards national total emissions from any of the EU member states. A similar pattern can be seen in New Zealand where agriculture is also an important part of the economy. These figures reflect the relative importance of agriculture to Ireland’s economy, and the lack of heavy industry in comparison to some other member states. Agricultural emissions are dominated by CH4 from enteric fermentation and manure management and N2O from fertiliser, manure applied to land and animal excreta deposited directly onto pasture. The graph below is total net emissions (including LULUCF) based on 2021 data, which is the most recent available on the EEA data viewer.
Ireland’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increased in the period from 1990 to 2001 where it peaked at 71.81 Mt CO2 equivalent, before displaying a downward trend to 2014. Emissions increased by 4.2% and 3.7%, respectively in the years, 2015 and 2016 and remained relatively stable in 2017 and 2018, followed by a 4.0% decrease in 2019. In 2020 final estimates of total national GHG emissions amounted to 59.06 Mt CO2 equivalent, which is 3.4% lower than 2019 emissions largely driven by the covid restrictions. The gradual lifting of covid restrictions in 2021 along with an increase in the use of coal and less renewables within electricity generation resulted in a 5.2% increase in emissions in 2021 compared to 2020. Ireland’s GHG emissions have increased by 11.64% from 1990-2021.
In relation to the greenhouse gases; carbon dioxide (CO2) accounted for 60.5% of the total, with methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) contributing 28.4% and 9.9% as CO2 equivalent, respectively and F-gases contributing 1.2% of the total as CO2 equivalent.
In 2021, the energy industries, transport and agriculture sectors accounted for 72.5% of total GHG emissions. Agriculture is the single largest contributor to the overall emissions, at 38.0%. Transport, energy industries and the residential sector are the next largest contributors, at 17.7%, 16.5% and 11.14%, respectively.