Ireland’s energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increased by 5.4% in 2021, despite a requirement to decrease them by 4.8%, according to analysis from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

The organisation published its annual report Energy in Ireland today (Wednesday, December 14), which estimates further emissions increases of about 6% in 2022, based on initial data.

The report, which showed that Ireland’s emissions are returning to pre-Covid-19 levels, identified two significant drivers of the rises, including a rebound in car use as the economy returns to normal levels of activity.

It also stated that Ireland is not progressing at the required rate to achieve its climate ambitions when it comes to the move away from fossil fuel use to renewable energy.

A breakdown of the findings show that electricity emissions in 2021 were up by 17.3% on the previous year, while transport and industry increased by 7.3% and 3.3% respectively.

According to the report, this was offset slightly by decreases in residential-related emissions, which fell by 6.1%, and commercial/public services, which decreased by 2.7%.

Margie McCarthy, director of research and policy insights with SEAI said “Ireland has set strong targets in [its] carbon budgets” which have been “legally enshrined”.

“We cannot afford to lose focus on the fact that these are annual budgets. Every year counts.

“If a target is missed one year, then the following years become more challenging,” she added.

McCarthy reiterated that Ireland must “urgently move to renewables and use less oil, gas, coal and peat to avoid making our future years even more challenging”.

She outlined a number of measures that should be taken to achieve this in the new year including further development of offshore wind and solar, district heating networks and the upgrade of 500,000 homes to a BER B2 rating or higher.

She added that the transport industry must also take serious action, by replacing petrol and diesel vehicles with electric cars and facilitating increased use of public transport.

“We need a combination of increasing our generation of renewable electricity and switching to low-carbon technologies, such as electric vehicles, heat pumps, building efficiency upgrades and changes in how we travel at an unprecedented scale,” she stated.

An updated Climate Action Plan is expected from the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) next week which is set to outline policies and actions aimed at reversing the current emission trends.