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Sound and independent information
on the environment

Ireland

Climate change mitigation (Ireland)

Why should we care about this issue

Topic
Climate change Climate change
more info
Environmental Protection Agency
Organisation name
Environmental Protection Agency
Reporting country
Ireland
Organisation website
Organisation website
Contact link
Contact link
Last updated
23 Nov 2010
Content license
CC By 2.5
Content provider
Environmental Protection Agency
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 23 Nov 2010 original
Key message

Ireland is facing significant challenges in meeting its EU future emissions targets for greenhouse gases under the EU Climate and Energy package for 2020 and anticipated longer term targets up to 2050. Effective action by all economic sectors is required for the transition to a low emissions economy.

Introduction

Climate change is one of the most significant and challenging issues currently facing humanity. Increased levels of greenhouse gases, such as CO2, increase the amount of energy trapped in the atmosphere which leads to global impacts such as increased temperatures, melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea-level.

If not addressed, the projected impacts of climate change present a very serious risk of dangerous and effectively irreversible climate impacts at both the global  and national levels with food production and ecosystems being particularly vulnerable. Ireland also faces a range of negative impacts related to climate change. Consequently, future investment decisions at national, regional and local levels must incorporate consideration of future climate conditions and adaptation options, with flood prevention and improved management of water resources being important elements of these considerations.

The state and impacts

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 23 Nov 2010 original

Figures

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Levels

Climate change is a global issue and is being driven by enhanced atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. The levels of these gases have continued to increase as shown by measurements of carbon dioxide at Mace Head on the west coast of Ireland. These observations are replicated at other sites around the world. Current atmospheric levels now exceed by far the natural range over the last 650,000 years.
Data source
http://www.epa.ie/media/atmosphericcarbondioxide.csv
Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Levels
Fullscreen image Original link

State and Impacts

Climate change is a global issue and is being driven by enhanced atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. The levels of these gases have continued to increase as shown by measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) at Mace Head on the west coast of Ireland.

These observations are replicated at other sites around the world. Current atmospheric levels now exceed by far the natural range over the last 650,000 years.

The effects of the enhanced greenhouse gas levels are most evident in the temperature record. For Ireland the average temperature has increased by 0.7oC over the period 1890 – 2007 and there is also evidence of a trend towards more intense and more frequent rainfall. These trends are reflected in ecosystem changes, with an increase in the growing season and greater numbers of warmer latitude fauna evident in Ireland and its surrounding waters.

Future impacts of climate change in Ireland will be both direct and indirect, resulting from spillover from impacts in other parts of Europe and the rest of the world. Predicted negative impacts in Ireland include:

  • more intense storms and rainfall events
  • an increased likelihood of flooding in rivers and on the coast, where almost all our cities and large towns are situated
  • water shortages in summer in the east and the need for  irrigation of crops
  • changes in the distribution of species
  • the possible extinction of vulnerable species

The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 23 Nov 2010 original

Figures

GHG Emissions Kyoto Protocol Limit

Under the Kyoto Protocol Ireland's total emissions are limited to an average of 62.8 million tonnes of CO2e per annum in the period 2008-2012. It is estimated that after the first two years of this period Ireland is currently a total of 6.2 million tonnes above the target when the impact of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and approved Forest Sinks are taken into account. It is estimated that Ireland will meet its Kyoto Protocol target through the use of Kyoto Protocol credits already purchased by the State and use of unused allowances in the New Entrant Set Aside under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.
Data source
http://www.epa.ie/media/ghgkyoto.csv
GHG Emissions Kyoto Protocol Limit
Fullscreen image Original link

Greenhouse gas emissions by sector

Ireland's emissions profile has changed considerably since 1990, with the contribution from transport more than doubling and the share from agriculture reducing since 1998. Agriculture is the largest source of emissions, representing 29 per cent of total national emissions in 2009. The energy industries are the second largest source of emissions, representing 21 per cent of total national greenhouse gas emissions in 2009. The transport sector has been the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, showing a 156 per cent increase between 1990 and 2009, although there was a decrease in emissions from this sector in 2008 and 2009.
Data source
http://www.epa.ie/media/ghgemissionsbysector.csv
Greenhouse gas emissions  by sector
Fullscreen image Original link

Drivers & Pressures

Under the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Ireland's total emissions are limited to an average of 62.8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents per annum (13 per cent above the baseline estimate) in the period 2008-2012. The actual situation in relation to compliance with the Kyoto protocol will not be known until after this five year period.  However, we can estimate that after the first two years we are currently a total of 6.2 million tonnes above the target when the impact of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and Forest Sinks are taken into account.

In 2009, Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions decreased across all sectors due to the effects of the economic downturn with a decline in total emissions of 7.9 per cent.

Ireland’s emissions profile has changed considerably since 1990, with the contribution from transport more than doubling and the share from agriculture reducing since 1998. In a European context it is notable that Irish per capita emissions of greenhouse gas emissions remain among the highest.

Agriculture is the largest source of emissions, representing 29 per cent of total national emissions in 2009. This is despite emissions from agriculture reaching a peak in 1998 and decreasing to below their 1990 level in recent years, reflecting a long-term decline in cattle population and in fertiliser use due to the Common Agricultural Policy. Ireland’s unique position, within the EU, as the country with the highest national proportion of agriculture emissions will present this country with major challenges in limiting emissions and meeting future targets.

The energy industries represent 21 per cent of total national greenhouse gas emissions in 2009. Emissions from power generation account for the bulk of energy sector emissions. Since the mid 1990s, Ireland’s population growth has been significantly greater than the EU average. This coupled with the increase in the number of households, has placed greater demands on energy for heating and electricity, which to a large extent are fossil fuel based. Since around 2001 the improved efficiency of electricity generation by the use of less carbon intensive fuels, coupled with an increase in the share of renewables, have allowed increased electricity production while at the same time resulting in lower emissions. Emissions in 2009 were 10.7 per cent lower than in 2008.  This also reflects a reduced demand for electricity from end-users.

The transport sector, responsible for 21 per cent of total national emissions,  has been the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, showing a 156 per cent increase between 1990 and 2009. However, transport emissions were 7.7 per cent lower in 2009 than in 2008.  This is the second year in a row that a decrease in transport sector emissions has been reported. The decrease primarily reflects the impact of the economic downturn as well as the changes in vehicle registration tax and road tax introduced in mid-2008.

The industrial and commercial sector are responsible for 14.8 per cent of total national emissions.  Emissions from this sector are 20 per cent lower in 2009 compared to 2008. This reflects decreases in emissions from, primarily, food processing and cement production.

The 2020 outlook

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 23 Nov 2010 original

Introduction

In this section two specific issues are highlighted which are of particular relevance for Ireland and its environment.  From the mid-1990s there have been major economic, social and demographic changes in Ireland.  These changes have had significant implications for the Irish environment and how it is managed. 

The recent downturn in the economy poses both challenges and opportunities.  It is important that the economic recovery, when it comes, is based on sustainability. The natural environment is a critical national asset and its protection and enhancement benefit both economy and society, now and in the future.

Within the context of sustainable development, it is important that the environmental conditions fundamental to the economic and social well-being of future generations not be exhausted or degraded. It is vital that environmental considerations are placed at the heart of policy and decision-making across all sectors. 

Therefore issues of particular relevance for Ireland include the development of a Green Economy and of capacity to model future environmental trends to support decision making.

The 2020 outlook

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 23 Nov 2010 original

Figures

GHG projections to 2020

The 2020 EU Effort Sharing target commits Ireland to reducing emissions from those sectors that are not covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme (eg. transport, agriculture, residential) to 20 per cent below 2005 levels. The projections indicate that even under the most ambitious scenario Ireland will exceed its 2020 target. Without carbon sinks, it is projected that Ireland will exceed its annual limit in 2014. Including the impact of carbon sinks, it is projected that Ireland will exceed its annual limit in 2017.
Data source
http://www.epa.ie/media/ghgprojections.csv
GHG projections to 2020
Fullscreen image Original link

Outlook

Emissions projections give an outlook for greenhouse gas emissions over the period up to 2020 taking into account key assumptions such as economic growth, fuel price and the impact of Government policies and measures.

Kyoto Protocol

In terms of meeting the Kyoto Protocol limitation target, Ireland’s purchasing requirement (or the need for additional domestic policies or measures) is estimated at 2.5 Mtonnes per annum over the Kyoto Period; this is under the most ambitious scenario which assumes that all planned Government policy will be fully implemented and will deliver as anticipated. However, purchases already made by Ireland, coupled with its operation of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), means that Ireland can comply with its Kyoto obligations without further purchases.

2020 EU Effort Sharing Target

The 2020 EU Effort Sharing target commits Ireland to reducing emissions from those sectors that are not covered by the ETS (e.g.  transport, agriculture, residential) to 20% below 2005 levels. The projections indicate that even under the most ambitious scenario Ireland will exceed its 2020 target. Without carbon sinks, it is projected that Ireland will exceed its annual limit in 2014. Including the impact of carbon sinks, it is projected that Ireland will exceed its annual limit in 2017.

Meeting the 2020 targets will require reduction measures in all sectors, but particularly in the agriculture and transport sectors, where cost-effective and easily implemented measures are difficult to find. It is essential that Ireland reduces its dependence on fossil fuels while ensuring that very significant increases are achieved in the use of alternative energy sources (wind, ocean, biomass and others). Considerable improvements in energy efficiency will also be required. The role of research will be crucial, particularly with regard to examining all possible options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and transport.

To avoid significant adverse climate change impacts over the coming decades, a concerted approach involving both adaptation and mitigation is required with mainstreaming of climate change issues into future investment decisions.

Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011 Feed synced: 23 Nov 2010 original

Responses

The national policy response to climate change was outlined in the National Climate Change Strategy (NCCS) published in 2007. It sets out a plan for how Ireland can meet its greenhouse gas emissions limitation under the Kyoto Protocol involving actions by all sectors and organisations.  

Emissions Trading Scheme

The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is the EU’s cornerstone in the fight against climate change. The EPA has been given the responsibility for implementing the ETS in Ireland. The scheme works on a "cap and trade" basis whereby companies must keep their emissions below the level of their allocated allowances or buy extra allowances on the market. From 2012 the ETS will be expanded to include emissions from air flights to and from European airports.

Renewable Energy

Developing renewable energy is an integral part of Ireland’s climate change strategy. The renewable contribution to Ireland’s gross energy consumption in 1990 was 2.3% rising to 3.9% in 2008.Under the EU Directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources, Ireland’s overall target is 16% of gross energy consumption to come from renewable sources in electricity generation, transport and thermal energy by 2020.

Carbon Tax

A new carbon tax of €15 per tonne was announced in the 2010 Budget. The tax was applied to petrol and diesel with immediate effect from December 2009 and to non-transport fuels (i.e. kerosene, marked gas oil, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), fuel oil and natural gas from May 2010. The application of the tax to coal and commercial peat will be subject to a commencement order to allow a mechanism to be put in place to counter the sourcing of coal and peat from Northern Ireland.

Climate Change Bill

The Government is planning to introduce a Climate Change Bill in 2010. It is anticipated that the Bill will commit Ireland to adhering to international targets, through the setting of annual reduction targets for greenhouse gases to 2020, and a 2050 target of at least 80 per cent reduction in net emissions. The Bill is also expected to place the preparation of the National Climate Change Strategy, annual carbon budgets and a National Climate Change Adaptation Framework on a statutory basis.

Disclaimer

The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

European Environment Agency (EEA)
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Phone: +45 3336 7100