Action needed as greenhouse gas emissions increase

  • Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 3.5 % (2.06 Mt COeq) in 2016 with significant increases observed across all the main sectors including:

o   Agriculture emissions increased by 2.7%

o   Transport emissions have increased by 3.7%

o   Energy Industry emissions increased by 6.1%

  • The overall emissions trends are increasing, making achievement of Ireland’s long-term decarbonisation goals ever more difficult.
  • Tackling this growth is a challenge in the context of a growing economy but one which must be addressed by households, business, farmers and communities if Ireland is to reap the benefits of a low-carbon economy.


The Environmental Protection Agency figures released today show that Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased significantly in 2016, following a substantial increase in 2015. Today’s figures show that total national greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to be 61.19 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) in 2016. This is 3.5 per cent (2.06 Mt CO2 eq) higher than emissions in 2015 and returns greenhouse gas emissions to 2009 levels. National emissions have now increased by over seven per cent in just two years, indicating that we have not managed to decouple emissions from economic growth.

Dr. Eimear Cotter, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability, said:

“Achieving Ireland’s long-term decarbonisation objective can only take place with a transformation of our energy, agriculture and transport systems. We need to adopt a much greater sense of urgency about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels while radically improving energy efficiency. In relation to agriculture, Ireland must optimise

agricultural production to ensure long term environmental integrity and sustainability. The growth in this sector, particularly for dairy and other cattle, points to very significant risks in relation to meeting our decarbonisation objectives.”



Key Trends

  • Agriculture emissions increased by 2.7 per cent in 2016 (0.52 MtCO2eq). The most significant drivers are higher dairy cow numbers (+6.2%) which reflects national plans to expand milk production. Dairy cow numbers have increased by 22 per cent in the last four years while greenhouse gas emissions increased by 8 per cent over that time. This shows that agricultural production has gained some efficiency over this period but that we have some way to go before full decoupling.
  • Transport emissions have increased by 3.7 per cent in 2016 (0.44 MtCO2eq) and 13 per cent in the last four years. This is driven by economic and employment growth and shows no sign of abatement in the short term. The increased use of diesel more than offset a decline in gasoline and biofuel use in 2016.
  • Energy Industry emissions increased by 6.1 per cent (0.72 MtCO2eq) in 2016. This is underpinned by an increase in demand for electricity and more electricity generation from gas. In 2016, decreases were observed in coal and peat use and also renewables due to less favourable weather conditions. The overall impact is that there is an increase in the emissions intensity of electricity generation for the second year in a row (from 465 g CO2/kWh in 2015 to 483 g CO2/kWh in 2016).

Concluding, Stephen Treacy, Senior Manager in the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability said:

“These figures confirm that greenhouse gas emissions keep step with economic growth unless appropriate interventions are designed and implemented. The National Mitigation Plan outlines what is needed to move Ireland to a low carbon economy. What we need now is to back this up with investment and action particularly across the highest emitting sectors, agriculture, transport and energy.”

See full detail on these provisional figures in the EPA web published report Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2016 here:




Improvements to inventory: The provisional estimates of emissions for 1990-2016 include significant changes to the agriculture sector. The estimates incorporate research targeted at inventory sources that account for 88 per cent of the total uncertainty in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emission figures. This research investigated the nitrous oxide emission factors for nitrogen fertiliser use and nitrous oxide emission factors for dung and urine deposited by grazing cattle on soils. As a direct result of this research agriculture emissions are now 3.6 per cent or 0.71 Mt CO2 eq per annum lower for all years from 1990-2015. The research was conducted as part of the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Initiative for Ireland (AGRI-I) funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Research Stimulus Fund.  Launched in January 2012, AGRI-I ( is a consortium of researchers, students and professionals working collaboratively to develop verified strategies to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from Irish agriculture. Research is conducted by Teagasc, Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) Northern Ireland, Queens University Belfast and Reading University.


Units: 1 Mt = 1,000 kilotonnes


CO2 Equivalent: greenhouse gases other than CO2 (i.e. methane, nitrous oxide and so-called F-gases) may be converted to CO2 equivalent using their global warming potentials.


F-gases: These gases comprise HFCs (Hydroflurocarbons), PFCs (Perfluorcarbons), SF6 (Sulphur Hexafluoride) and NF3 (Nitrogen Trifluoride).  They are much more potent than the naturally occurring greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide).


Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Sectors:  include the following ten sectors for analysis;


  1. Energy Industries (electricity generation, waste to energy incineration, oil refining, briquetting manufacture and fugitive emissions)
  2. Residential (combustion for domestic space and hot water heating)
  3. Manufacturing Combustion (combustion for Manufacturing industries in ETS and non-ETS)
  4. Commercial Services (combustion for Commercial Services space and hot water heating)
  5. Public Services (combustion for Public services space and hot water heating)
  6. Transport (combustion of fuel used in road, rail, navigation, domestic aviation and pipeline gas transport)
  7. Industrial Processes (process emissions from mineral, chemical, metal industries, non-energy products and solvents)
  8. F-Gases (gases used in refrigeration, air conditioning and semiconductor manufacture)
  9. Agriculture (emissions from fertiliser application, ruminant digestion, manure management, agricultural soils and fuel used in agriculture/forestry/fishing)
  10. Waste (emissions from solid waste disposal on land, solid waste treatment (composting), wastewater treatment, waste incineration and open burning of waste).


An overview of changes in emissions since the previous year is presented in Table 1 and distance to EU targets in Table 2.


More trend figures, tables and background information available at:



Table 1. Draft* greenhouse gas emissions for 2015 and 2016 for Ireland


Mt COeq 2015 2016 % Change
Agriculture 19.063 19.583 2.7%
Energy Industries 11.803 12.525 6.1%
Transport 11.812 12.255 3.7%
Residential 6.041 6.047 0.1%
Manufacturing Combustion 4.575 4.555 -0.4%
Industrial Processes 2.003 2.146 7.1%
F-Gases 1.142 1.258 10.2%
Commercial Services 0.935 0.999 6.8%
Waste 0.951 0.939 -1.2%
Public Services 0.806 0.881 9.3%
Total 59.132 61.188 3.5%


* Final figures will be submitted to the EU and UN in March and April 2017 in line with the agreed reporting timetable.




Table 2. Compliance with EU Effort Sharing Decision Targets 2014-2020


2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
A Total greenhouse gas emissions without LULUCF 57,903.4 57,626.0 59,878.2 61,188.0 kt CO2eq
B NF3 emissions 0.9 1.0 1.0 1.0 kt CO2eq
C Total greenhouse gas emissions without LULUCF and without NF3 emissions 57,902.5 57,625.1 59,877.3 61,187.1 kt CO2eq
D Total verified emissions from stationary installations under Directive 2003/87/EC 15,685.7 15,952.7 16,829.7 17,733.8 kt CO2eq
E CO2 emissions from 1.A.3.a civil aviation 10.0 9.4 10.4 9.7 kt CO2eq
F Total ESD emissions (=C-D-E) 42,206.8 41,663.0 43,037.2 43,443.6 kt CO2eq
G EU ESD Targets 46,891.9 45,760.9 44,629.9 43,498.9 40,885.1 39,807.1 38,729.2 37,651.3 kt CO2eq
Distance to target (=F-G) -4,685.1 -4,097.9 -1,592.7 -55.3


Note: Shaded cells show data that has been reviewed, and compliance agreed, by the European Commission under Article 19 of the MMR No. 525/2013


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