Greenhouse gas output plunged during recession

The link between economic activity and greenhouse gas emissions may not be as clear cut as previously thought, according to Central Statistics Office data.

Latest figures show that while the country’s GDP grew by 40% during the boom period 2000-2007, greenhouse gas levels were relatively unchanged.

However, when GDP fell 7% in the downturn of 2007-2012, greenhouse gas emissions fell at a rate more than double that, dropping by a dramatic 14.6%.

These apparently conflicting trends could spell good news for Ireland in grappling with how best to keep emissions under control while nurturing a fledgling economic recovery.

Emissions of greenhouse gas — the key contributor to climate change — were almost constant at 68m-70m tonnes in 2000-2007 and then fell year-on-year to 57.6m in 2011 before rising again by 1.4% in 2012.

That rise was driven mainly by industry, which saw emissions grow by 4.5% between 2011 and 2012.

Agriculture, which accounts for a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, saw a 3% rise in the period.

However, despite the continuing increase in the population, household emissions have continued to fall, from 14.5m tonnes in 2007 to 12m tonnes in 2012.

The CSO said: “Factors such as lower emissions from cars, reduced use of fossil fuels and a reduction in the number of new homes built were the main causes of the decrease.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this week warned that global greenhouse gas emissions will need to drop to zero by the end of this century if the planet is to be spared the most devastating impacts of climate change.


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