Emissions reduction targets will be missed

Ireland is not on target to reduce damaging greenhouse gas emissions in line with international obligations, the Environmental Protection Agency has warned. With a major carbon reduction deadline looming in five years’ time, the EPA says we may only deliver half the decrease demanded of us.

Ireland is not on target to reduce damaging greenhouse gas emissions in line with international obligations, the Environmental Protection Agency has warned. With a major carbon reduction deadline looming in five years’ time, the EPA says we may only deliver half the decrease demanded of us.

A fresh deadline with further reductions will then be set for the 15 years to follow up to 2035 and the EPA says that, at the current rate of progress, Ireland will face “severe compliance challenges”.

In summary, it says: “Ireland is not on track towards decarbonising the economy in the long term in line with the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015 and will face steep challenges post-2020 unless further policies and measures are put in place over and above those envisaged between now and 2020.”

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The biggest immediate challenge is the recovering economy, with growth predictions in the agriculture and transport sectors adding heavily to carbon emissions — the key factor causing climate change.

Agriculture and transport between them account for about 75% of all carbon emissions from general society, excluding those from power companies and energy intensive industries which are measured separately.

Under EU commitments, the country is obliged to get society’s carbon emissions down by 20% below 2005 levels by the year 2020 but the EPA says the likely decrease will be just 9%-14%.

Even with more efficient and environmentally friendly farming techniques and fuel technology, only a 5% cut in carbon emissions is expected from agriculture and a decrease of just 4% is anticipated in transport.

The residential sector could achieve a reduction as high as 23% if radical and swift changes are made in home energy efficiency but the likely decrease is put between 9% and 23%

It is predicted the reduction in the commercial sector will be between 5%-14%. Only the waste sector — which includes waste water treatment landfill, waste incineration and other waste disposal and recycling operations — is likely to make the 20% decrease.

In order to meet EU obligations in 2020, Ireland might need to “borrow” from future years emissions allocations or use other accounting techniques which are legal but do not address the core problem of excessive carbon production.

Laura Burke, the EPA director general, said that economic growth had to be balanced with carbon reduction.

“Greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced to near or below zero before the end of this century.

“Ireland must follow a pathway of decarbonising energy and transport. We must break our dependence on fossil energy infrastructures. We must adopt sustainable food production, management and consumption systems. This will take considerable planning, investment, and time.”

The Department of the Environment said Environment Minister Alan Kelly noted the EPA’s report.

“Minister Kelly has said that meeting our 2020 targets will be very challenging and increased economic activity is adding further to this challenge,” a statement said.

“Minister Kelly is currently progressing Ireland’s first Climate Bill through the Oireachtas which will help to meet this challenge head on, in terms of developing our first National Mitigation Plan and making the transition to a low carbon economy future.”

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