Ireland exceeded its emissions budget for the third year running, with agricultural emissions rising over this period, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its report on provisional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for Ireland for 2018.

A marginal decrease of 0.2%, some 0.14 Mt CO2eq, was recorded with total national emissions estimated at 60.5 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq).

Agriculture emissions increased by 1.9% in 2018 (0.38 Mt CO2eq). The most significant drivers are higher dairy cow numbers, up 2.7%, which reflects national plans to expand milk production.

According to the EPA, dairy cow numbers have increased by 27% in the last five years while GHG emissions increased by 8% over that time.

While agricultural production has gained some efficiency over this period, these gains will not be sufficient to deliver overall emission reductions. Full implementation of the measures outlined in the Climate Action Plan are required, the agency has stressed.

Household emissions increased by 7.9% (0.46 Mt CO2eq) which reflected a colder winter in 2018.

This increased demand for home heating – with oil still the predominant heating fuel – reflects the scale of the challenge to increase the resilience of our housing stock to extreme weather events, in terms of energy efficiency and use of renewable energy.

Transport emissions increased by 1.7% in 2018 (0.20 Mt CO2eq). This is the fifth year out of the last six with increased emissions in transport.

In road transport in 2018, petrol use continued to decrease by 9.2% while diesel use increased by 4.6% and biofuels use decreased by 4.0%.

Reversing this trend will require the widespread transition to electric vehicles, increased use of public transport and reducing the number of car journeys.

Energy industry emissions decreased by 11.7% (1.38 Mt CO2eq) in 2018. The most significant change in fuel used was a decrease in coal (44%), largely driven by maintenance works at the Moneypoint generating station, and an increase in renewable energy.

In 2018, electricity generated from wind increased by 14% with the proportion of electricity generation from renewables now at 32.6%.

This has resulted in a reduction in emissions intensity of electricity generation from 437g CO2/kWh in 2017 to 377g CO2/kWh in 2018.

Commenting, Dr. Eimear Cotter, director of the EPA Office of Environmental Sustainability, said:

Ireland has exceeded its annual EU emissions budget for the third year in a row, and by a margin of over five million tonnes.

“At a time of global urgency to address climate change this is a national trend that we must reverse. It is time for businesses and communities to support and be supported in taking action to reduce emissions.

“Ireland must implement the ambitious commitments in the 2019 Climate Action Plan to play its role in averting the worst impacts of climate change,” Dr. Cotter said.