Increased generation of electricity from coal and gas-fired power stations meant that emissions from energy production rose by 1.9% last year.
And, for the first time in seven years, agricultural emissions grew. This 0.2% rise is due to increased fertiliser and gasoil usage on farms due to a strong performance in the agricultural sector. Cattle and sheep numbers are continuing to fall across the country, resulting in a decrease in methane levels emanating from these animals.
The economy’s poor performance and changes to the motor tax system, which meant low emission cars are more financially attractive, has led to a drop in transport sector emissions of 10.1%.
Across all sectors, Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 1.1% to 61.64 million tonnes.
Greenhouse gas emissions from Irish homes rose by 4.4% between 2009 and 2010. According to the EPA, this reflects an increase in oil, gas and coal usage due to a colder and longer heating season last year.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says Ireland remains on course to meets its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, when the EU emissions trading scheme and approved forest sinks are taken into account.
“The reduction in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions is welcome, particularly the continued reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector. Ireland is on track to meet our emission limits for 2008 — 2012 under the Kyoto Protocol. However in order to meet the very stringent EU 2020 Limits and to move permanently to a low carbon economy, new policies are required to be identified, assessed, adopted and implemented,” said the EPA’s new director Laura Burke, a former project manager with INDAVER Ireland.
Agriculture remains the single largest contributor to Irish emission levels, at 30.4% of the total, followed by energy and transport at 21.7% and 19.1%.
EPA general manager Dr Eimear Cotter said the increases in the energy, agriculture and industrial and commercial sectors shows that there are still challenges ahead if we are to fully meet our emission reduction targets.
Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth has sharply criticised the Government for its historic decision to provide free carbon credits to some of the country’s polluters. According to FOE, these companies sold on the unused credit for up to €90 million.
Meanwhile the taxpayer has forked out over€86m to buy overseas offset credits because Ireland’s emissions are still above our Kyoto target.
Friends of the Earth director Oisín Coghlan said: “With a much bigger challenge ahead to meet our 2020 targets, it’s crucial that there is increased parliamentary oversight of ministerial climate policy to ensure the polluter pays and not the taxpayer. This kind of political reform is a central part of an effective climate law.”