A report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned that despite an increased focus on the worldwide situation we are still lagging behind other countries in addressing the issue.
According to the EPA document, which will form the basis of the Government’s carbon budget submission to the European Commission early next year, during 2008 carbon emissions fell by 210,000 tonnes to 67.43 million tonnes.
During the period, there was a clear reduction in pollutant levels from the industry and commercial sectors, and smaller cuts in agriculture and transport.
However, despite the downturn, the EPA has warned that a 603,700- tonne greenhouse gas emissions surge from residential homes “cancels the benefits of these reductions” and means Ireland is still 4.4 million tonnes above its Kyoto protocol pollutant limit.
“While a reduction of even 0.3% is most welcome, the remaining distance to our Kyoto limit is substantial, and shows that we continue to face a very major challenge,” said Mary Kelly, director general of the EPA.
“The reduction is disappointingly small when seen in the light of the downturn in economic activity during 2008 and the expected initial impact of the measures already adopted under the National Climate Change Strategy.
“It further emphasises that it is essential to keep reduction measures under review and, where necessary, to extend them or to adopt additional measures,” she said.
According to the EPA, during 2008 the economic downturn contributed to the lowering of the industry and commercial sector pollutant levels by 4.4%, to 523,600 tonnes, with a 1% decrease also in the agriculture and transport areas.
However, agriculture continues to be the single largest contributor to the overall emissions level, at 27.5%.
It is followed by power generation and oil refinery at 21.6%, transport at 21.3%, industrial and commercial services at 17.6%, residential homes at 10.3% and waste at 1.8%.
The EPA said the rise in greenhouse gas emissions from residential homes is linked to last year’s prolonged cold winter which led to families using more heating than expected.
It also noted that transport pollutants in 2008 are 176% higher than in 1990. While Ireland’s Kyoto protocol limit for 2008 to 2012 is 62.84 million tonnes per annum, our greenhouse gas emissions level in 2008 was 7% above this threshold.
The release of the EPA figures coincided with a series of climate change protests in recent days in Copenhagen, Denmark, where world leaders are meeting to discuss the crisis.
Climate change sceptics recently leaked emails from a series of scientists involved in climate research which indicated they manipulated data to show the damage being caused.