Ireland can meet the EU target of a 30% greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, but only if the 2019 Climate Action Plan is fully implemented.
That is the conclusion of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its emissions projections up to 2040, which adds that full implementation of the plan would result in 3% average annual emissions reductions from 2021 to 2030.
Director general of the EPA, Laura Burke, said, "These latest projections demonstrate that if we implement the actions that are planned, and if all sectors get behind these, then we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
"This is only the first step, however. For Ireland to become the low carbon and climate resilient society and economy that we aspire to, systemic change is required."
She said Ireland is now at a pivotal point for its economy and the steps taken in the Covid-19 recovery will shape the country for the next decade. Focusing on climate action as part of a ‘green’ recovery stimulus "offers the opportunity to rebuild our economy, generate new jobs and respond to climate change," Ms Burke said.
What Covid-19 has taught us is that while the dramatic decline in economic activity and travel may have resulted in a reduction in greenhouse gases in the short-term, long-term improvements can only be achieved with targeted climate and environmental actions that change consumption and production systems in a sustainable and lasting manner.
The report did warn, though, that the latest EPA emissions projections started in late 2019 and are underpinned by strong projected growth in key sectors of the economy.
The impact of Covid-19 is not included in these figures, and the impact of the pandemic in terms of greenhouse gas emissions will be incorporated in the next round of projections.
The EPA produced two scenarios in preparing projections - a so-called 'with existing measures' scenario and a 'with additional measures' scenario.
The 'with additional measures' scenario, which includes the impact of the 2019 Climate Action Plan, will deliver an average reduction in emissions of 2.9% per year until 2030.
In 2020, the sectors with the largest contribution of emissions are agriculture, transport and energy with 32.6%, 19.8% and 18.7% share in total emissions respectively.
In 2030, the contribution from agriculture, transport and energy is projected to change to 38.7%, 16.2% and 15% respectively.
"Despite projected reductions in the agriculture sector in this scenario, the increased proportion in 2030 from agriculture is largely a consequence of the projected reduction in fuel combustion, and therefore CO2, in the other sectors of the economy.
"Reducing emissions in the agriculture sector is more challenging, however reductions can be delivered as set out in Teagasc’s Marginal Abatement Cost Curve," the EPA said.