Figures reveal Ireland’s top climate crisis contributors

A morning-after headache may be the side effect of a pint of plain and a whiskey chaser but at least it’s short-lived — the long-term hangover is the thousands of tonnes of carbon emitted during production.

Latest figures from the European Commission show that St James’ Gate Brewery, the home of the black stuff, emitted 51,514 tonnes of greenhouse gas last year while Midleton Distilleries was responsible for 41,520 tonnes.

They’re just two examples of how some of our favourite pleasure pursuits — including travel, socialising and enjoying dairy products — are adding to the climate crisis. The figures track the performance of some 14,000 major airlines, manufacturers, power plants and other heavy energy users across Europe.

While Ryanair emerged from the list newly elevated to the top 10 carbon producers in the EU with a record output of more than 9.8 million tonnes last year, Ireland has scores more companies who are also substantial contributors to the problem.

After Ryanair, ESB has the largest emissions, chiefly from its Moneypoint power station although with 1.9m tonnes emitted last year, that is a dramatic reduction on the 2017 figure of 3.4m which was down from 4.4m in 2016. Moneypoint was out of action for a time last year which explains some of the reduction.

ESB’s other plants at Poolbeg and North Wall in Dublin, Lough Ree and West Offaly in the midlands and Aghada in County Cork between them produced 2.6m tonnes.

Norwegian Air, which is also registered in Ireland, emitted 1.5m tonnes which was up from the previous year while Aer Lingus was responsible for 848,646 tonnes.

Aughinish Alumina, the Limerick-based aluminium producer, had the largest emissions of the single base manufacturing industries in the list, with an output of 1.2m tonnes which has changed little in recent years.

Irish Cement, between its two plants in Limerick and Drogheda, had emissions totalling 1.6m tonnes.

Other cement producers were also high on the list including Scotchtown Cement with 806,637 tonnes emitted and Lagan Cement with 424,139 tonnes. Power station operators, SSE, Viridian and Synergen all had emissions in excess of 500,000 tonnes.

The pharmaceutical and dairy sectors also had high levels of emissions. Glanbia’s plants in Ballyragget and Virginia had emissions totalling 104,843 tonnes while Kerry Ingredients’ plants in Listowel and Charleville between them produced 123,000 tonnes.

Around a dozen other dairy producers had emissions ranging from just over 10,000 tonnes to more than 70,000 tonnes. Several pharmaceutical companies also feature. Pfizer’s four Irish plants between them had emissions totalling 62,599 tonnes.

The figures were released as Ireland and the rest of the world face the crucial task of halving carbon emissions within 12 years and eliminating them completely by 2050 if extreme climate chaos is to be avoided.

Despite creeping into the top 10, Ryanair is still far below the worst offender which is the Belchatow coal-fired power plant in Poland which produced 38m tonnes of carbon last year.

It is followed by six other coal-fired power plants in Germany and one in Bulgaria which produced between 10m and 32m tonnes each. Ryanair, which has seen its emissions rise in recent years, has pointed out that the increase is in line with its growing business.

In a statement, the company said: “Ryanair is Europe’s greenest and cleanest airline. Passengers travelling on Ryanair have the lowest CO2 emissions per km travelled than any other airline.”

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