Agriculture was the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020, according to a new report from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The data published today (Wednesday, May 31) shows that the agriculture sector accounted for 38% of the country’s total GHG emissions that year, compared with 32% in 2010.

96% of emissions from the farming sector were due to agricultural activity, including emissions from livestock.

Emissions due to fuel combustion were 3% of the sector’s total, while emissions associated with electricity consumption were a further 1%.

Source: CSO

The CSO said that five sectors accounted for 78% of country’s GHG emissions in 2020: agriculture (38%); households (27%); non-metallic minerals (6%); road and rail transport (5%); and food and drink production (3%).

The data stated that the agriculture sector was responsible for around one-third of emissions every year during the decade from 2010 to 2020.

The household share decreased from 31% in 2010 to 27% in 2020, despite a substantial increase in population numbers during this period.


Agriculture accounted for 1% of gross value added (GVA) and 4% of employment in 2020.

From 2014 to 2020, GVA produced by the sector at constant prices was higher relative to 2010 than greenhouse gas emissions were.

“This shows that an element of relative decoupling was achieved in these years as gross value added increased at a greater rate than emissions,” the CSO said.

However, the CSO noted that output from agriculture is an important input for other sectors.

In 2019, 35% of the value of the output of the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector was used as an input by the food manufacturing sector.

The data shows the agriculture labour force in 2020 was at 278,580 farm workers. This figure includes farm holders, family members who did some farm work during the year, and regular non-family workers.

According to the CSO data, many of the family farm workers were not working full-time on the farm, hence there was a considerably lower corresponding figure in terms of annual work units of 154,304, which was 55% of the total number of farm workers.

The data suggests that relative to 2010, GHG emissions and numbers of cattle and sheep in terms of livestock units showed very similar trends between 2010 and 2020.

Livestock units are calculated by applying different coefficients to different species and ages of livestock, based on the feeding requirements of each animal type.