Greenhouse gas emissions rise in key sectors

Greenhouse gas emissions in key trading sectors rose last year, despite falls across the rest of Europe.

A report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed that emissions from almost 100 major industrial and institutional sites in Ireland — which participate in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) — increased by 5.5% last year.

Across the EU as a whole, ETS emissions fell by approximately 0.4%. Emissions from the power generation sector increased by 5.3%.

Emissions in the cement industry rose by 10.8% while aviation emissions increased by 11%. The food and drink sector’s emissions were up 4.6%.

The greater use of the coal-fired plant at Moneypoint for electricity generation last year (its emissions increased by 20%) was the main factor in the overall national increase in power generation emissions.

In the aviation sector, growth was 11%, due to growth in business across the European Economic Area of flights by Irish-registered carriers.

Almost 100 major industrial and institutional sites in Ireland participate in the ETS. These include sites operating in the power generation, cement, lime and oil refining sectors.

Also included are large firms in sectors such as food and drink, pharmaceuticals, and semi-conductors.

Aviation emissions have been included in the scheme since 2012.

Companies participating in the scheme are required to report their emissions to the EPA by March 31 each year.

EPA director general Laura Burke said the results were “disappointing”.

“The increase in emissions is disappointing and points to the fact that economic growth needs to be decoupled from emissions growth. The increased use of coal for electricity generation in Ireland contrasts sharply with the pledge in the December 2015 White Paper on Energy to reduce energy-related carbon emissions by between 80% and 95%, compared with 1990 levels.”

Ms Burke said stronger incentives were needed to help companies move towards greener options.

“We need a stronger incentive to move away from carbon-intensive fuels like coal in the short term and from fossil fuel use in general in the long term. Reforming the EU ETS to give a stronger carbon price would speed up the decarbonisation needed for a carbon neutral economy,” she said.

The report comes just one month after the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) outlined how major action was needed for Ireland to achieve its 2020 renewable energy targets.

Under binding EU targets, 16% of final energy use must be from renewable sources. This is broken down into 10% for transport, 12% for heat, and 10% for electricity.

Currently, Ireland is just over halfway towards meeting its 2020 renewable energy target, with 8.6% of gross final consumption derived from renewables in 2014.

The SEAI report highlights that, while 40,000 homes and 550 businesses are currently using some form of renewable heat technologies, this level needs to increase seven-fold in order to hit the 2020 targets.

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