A major report by the European Environmental Agency ranks Ireland as the second-worst offender after Spain within the EU in meeting its targets to reduce the threat posed by such gases to the ozone layer.
Even though Ireland is allowed to increase its emission levels by 13%, unlike many other EU countries which much reduce their levels, the EEA report found that Ireland is still way behind in its efforts to achieve this rate by its target date of 2010. Ireland's emission levels in 2001 were 31% higher than in 1990 more than double the increase it is allowed.
If uncorrected by 2010, the Government could face annual fines of €300m for failing to meet its obligations.
The report shows that Ireland is also one of the few EU countries to have recorded an increase in the use of fertilisers an important source of nitrous oxide emissions since 1990.
Luxembourg, Germany and Britain were singled out for making considerable cuts to their emission levels, designed to reduce the overall generation of greenhouse gases within the EU by 8% by the end of the decade. Launching the report in Dublin yesterday, Junior Environment Minister Pat The Cope Gallagher said it had recorded substantial improvements in several fields where a dedicated effort had been made. "But overall, it strikes a cautionary note," he said.
He acknowledged that higher than average economic growth in Ireland had contributed to increased energy consumption, which had generated a substantial rise in emission figures.
Nevertheless, Mr Gallagher stressed that the Kyoto targets were demanding but manageable.
The report entitled, Europe's Environment: The Third Assessment, also highlighted the poor quality of drinking water in group and private supplies in Ireland. The country has one of the worst records across 52 countries in Europe for drinking water.