Greenhouse Gas emissions from agriculture actually fell last year (but it’s still by far the biggest)

Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture decreased last year, according to latest research from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

It released provisional greenhouse gas emissions figures today for the time period 1990 – 2014.

For 2014, total national greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to be 58.2m tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) which is 0.7 % lower than emissions in 2013.

This follows the 1.3% decrease in emissions reported for 2013 and shows emission reductions in eight of the last nine years.

While the overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is welcome, the picture in individual sectors is mixed.

Over 70% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions come from three sectors. Agriculture remains the single largest contributor to the overall emissions at 33.3% of the total. However, agriculture emissions decreased by 1.1% in 2014.

The most significant drivers, according to the EPA for lower agriculture emissions in 2014 are reduced CO2 emissions from liming on soils (-25.9%) and a reduction in nitrogenous fertiliser use (-6.1%) which is the main contributor to reduction of N2O emitted from agricultural soils (-1.4%).

However, it says the small decrease in 2014 was somehow counterbalanced with higher animal numbers; dairy cows population was 4.6% higher in 2014 compared with 2013.

‘Other cattle’ livestock, which includes beef cattle, have decreased by 1.5% in 2014. In contrast, sheep numbers have increased by 2.3% and pig numbers increased by 1.3%.

Other key findings

  • Transport and Energy are the second and third-largest contributors at 19.5% and 19.1% respectively. The remainder is made up by the Industry and Commercial at 15.5%,
  • The remainder is made up by the Industry and Commercial at 15.5%, Residential sector at 9.8% and Waste at 2.7%.
  • The most significant change in sectoral emissions is in the Residential sector with a 10.4% decrease in emissions mainly from decreased solid fuel consumption. The winter in 2014 was considerably milder than 2013, which contributed to this lowering of domestic fuel use.
  • Sectoral emissions in the Energy sector (i.e. power generation) show a decrease of 1.9%.
  • There was also a significant increase in electricity generated from renewables which now account for 23% of electricity generated in 2014 (up from 20% in 2013).
  • Transport emissions increased by 2.5% in 2014.
  • Looking at the underlying drivers for the transport increase, the EPA says the number of passenger diesel cars increased by 11.4% in 2014 while the number of passenger petrol cars decreased by 3.6%, and commercial vehicle numbers increased by 2.8% in 2014.
  • The figures show that Ireland will meet its 2014 emissions targets, set by the EU, however based on current trends target limits for 2018, 2019 and 2020 remain at risk.

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