Ireland ‘unlikely’ to meet 2020 EU greenhouse gas emission targets

Ireland is unlikely to meets its 2020 EU greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets, projections from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show.

Greenhouse gas emissions are projected to increase strongly as economic growth takes hold, according to the EPA.

GHG emission targets for sectors including agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, non-energy intensive industry and waste are unlikely to be met, it added.

Ireland’s EU target for 2020 is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the non-Emissions Trading Scheme (non-ETS) sector by 20% on 2005 levels.

The non-ETS sector covers emissions from agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, non-energy intensive industry and waste sectors.

However, EPA projections indicate that emissions will only be between 4% and 6% below 2005 levels by 2020.

Current challenges

Current and planned policies and measures are not sufficient to meet the 2020 targets, with emissions projected to continue to increase out to 2030 and beyond, the EPA said.

The latest figures demonstrate the need for new and innovative measures to meet the challenges that Ireland faces in making the transition to a low-carbon economy, it added.

While there was over-achievement of annual obligations in the early years of the compliance period (2013-2020), this will not be sufficient to allow Ireland to cumulatively meet its compliance obligations, according to the EPA.

Ireland is expected to have breached annual obligation targets for 2016, it added.

Meanwhile, an expected shortfall in meeting 2020 targets for energy efficiency and renewable energy further adds to the challenge that is facing the state, the EPA said.

Projected increased emissions from the agriculture sector (impacted by the Food Wise 2025 Strategy), as well as growing transport sector emissions, dominate the projected emissions trend in the non-ETS sector.

Agriculture (45%) and transport (29%) are projected to account for 74% of Ireland’s non-ETS sector emissions in 2020.

For the period 2015-2020, agriculture emissions are projected to increase by between 4% and 5%. Transport emissions are projected to show strong growth of between 10% and 12% over the same period.

Future targets

New obligations for Ireland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the years 2021-2030 are expected to be agreed at EU level in 2017.

The further away Ireland is from the 20% reduction target in 2020, the more difficult the compliance challenges in the following decade are likely to become, the EPA said.

The EPA’s latest greenhouse gas projections are a disappointing indicator that the current range of policy measures to reduce emissions and to meet compliance obligations are failing in an improving economy, EPA Director General, Laura Burke, said.

“In addition, Ireland has a national policy position that commits us to reducing our carbon emissions by at least 80% compared to 1990 levels by 2050 – across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors, while achieving carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land use sectors.

“If we are to realise this policy position and our aspirations to transition to a low-carbon economy, then any new measures to be included in the upcoming and future national mitigation plans need to be innovative and effective – to get Ireland’s emissions back on a sustainable trajectory.

“This will take planning, investment and time, but it can be achieved in the overall framework of national, EU and global commitments,” she said.

Farm supports

In light of these projections, the IFA’s Renewables Project Team Chairman, James Murphy, has called on Climate and Energy Minister Denis Naughten to urgently progress plans to introduce supports for farm-scale and community renewable projects.

Climate gases from agriculture have reduced by 5.5% since 1990, with emissions from transport increasing by 130% over the same time period.

“This is not a reason for inaction in agriculture; farming can do more – particularly in bio-energy and farm-scale and community-based renewable projects.

“To achieve this Minister Naughten must immediately put in place the long-awaited National Energy Forum to develop a coherent policy framework.

“More importantly, this must be supported with meaningful tariff supports for farm-scale and community-based energy production,” he added.