Major carbon polluters ‘up to three times over limit’

Some of the country’s biggest carbon polluters arestill failing to rein in their greenhouse gas output as Ireland prepares to back plans to hike the cost of excess emissions.

Major carbon polluters ‘up to three times over limit’

Figures released by the European Commission show almost all of the country’s large carbon emitters — companies emitting more than 10,000 tonnes of damaging carbon per year — exceeded their free allocation of carbon units last year.

Most breached their allocation by between 25%-75% but, in some cases, the amount of carbon emitted was double or even treble the allocation which is intended as a guideline for acceptable emission levels.

Such companies must buy carbon credits to make up the difference. While they pay bargain prices on the EU’s carbon trading market at present, the commission is proposing artificially creating a shortage of credits to force prices up.

Maria Martin of the Environmental Protection Agency said prices were not currently prompting companies to work hard enough at reducing greenhouse gases.

“In an ideal world, the price of carbon would act as strong disincentive to them to increase their emissions,” she said. “The price should be around €30 a tonne but it’s less than €7 at the moment.”

In a move opposed by some industrial interests, and which could have knock-on cost implications for consumers, the commission is proposing creating a ‘market stability reserve’ by 2021 to take carbon credits out of circulation when there are gluts in order to push up prices, while returning them in times of shortage.

The Department of Environment said Ireland supported the proposal in principle. “The establishment and early activation of the MSR can help to incentivise companies, through a more realistic carbon price, to invest in lower emission improvements to their operation,” said the department.

Ryanair is by far the country’s biggest producer of greenhouse gas, emitting 6.6m tonnes last year. That was 2m more than its 4.6m tonne allocation, necessitating the purchase of around €14m worth of credits.

The next biggest is the ESB station at Moneypoint with 3.8m tonnes. Since 2013, electricity-generating installations do not receive free allocations but Moneypoint and other ESB plants are among the better performers in terms of staying within or close to previous guidelines.

Aughinish Alumina in Limerick was next with 1.3m tonnes in emissions, exceeding its 800,000 tonne allocation. Irish Cement Ltd in Limerick and Scotchtown Cement Works exceeded their 400,000 tonne and 600,000 tonne allocations by 25% and 40% respectively.

The dairy industry has some of the biggest gaps between emissions and allocations. Tipperary Co-op was 31% over; Kerry Ingredients’ two plants were 90% and 150% over; Glanbia 70%; Dairygold 78%; Aurivo 60%; and Arrabawn 80%.

Nutricia Infant Nutrition in Macroom was three and a half times over; while Diageo’s St James’s Gate Brewery was two and a half times over.

In a statement, Ryanair said it had the lowest carbon emissions per customer of any European airline: “As our load factor continues to grow, our emissions per customer continues to reduce. We have also ordered 200 new Boeing 737 MAX 200 aircraft with CFM LEAP-1B engines, which will reduce fuel consumption by up to 18%.”

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