Action needed to meet 2020 greenhouse gas targets

IRELAND needs to take serious action – in addition to those already planned – if it is to meet its 2020 greenhouse gas emission targets, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA also warned that we will have to develop a range of carbon sinks – natural or artificial reservoirs that accumulate and store carbon-containing chemical compounds – including increasing the amount of land we have under forest.

It reminded Government that a fifth of the reduction in GHG emissions expected by them by 2015 are coming from policies and measures that still haven’t been devised.

Furthermore, up to 35% of emission reductions expected by Government by 2020 are also emanating from unspecified policies and measures.

EPA director general Dr Mary Kelly said that yesterday’s figures reflect the downturn, and also the anticipated recovery, based on ESRI economic forecasts.

“Even with reductions due to the downturn, it is projected that Ireland will still be 2.8 million tonnes per annum of CO2 above the non-ETS target in 2020 taking the most ambitious scenarios set out in Government policies and assuming that forestry sinks are fully included.”

According to the EPA, our transport emissions will slow significantly over the next 10 years compared to the growth rates between 1990 and 2008. However the key sectors that will contribute to gas emissions remain agriculture, energy and transport.

Greenhouse gas emission projections have been produced by the EPA for both the Kyoto period up to 2012 and the EU Commission’s Energy and Climate Package’s 2020 deadline. Using two different scenarios, they predict outlook for greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 and 2020.

The 2020 EU targets are based around a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 2005.

“This target is particularly difficult to achieve as it excludes those sectors covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and applies to agriculture, transport, residential and other sectors, where it is much more difficult to achieve reductions. Not all the targets factored into the projections are associated with detailed policies and measures. Now is the time to develop further policies,” said Dr Kelly.

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