EPA Greenhouse Gas emissions projections highlight the need for urgent implementation of climate plans and policies

EPA Projections data indicate that:

  • Total greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to have increased by 6 per cent in 2021.
  • Planned policies and measures, if fully implemented, could deliver up to 28 per cent (4 per cent per annum) emissions reduction up to 2030.
  • Ireland can comply with its 2030 EU emissions reduction target only if all planned measures are implemented and delivered as planned.
  • The data projects that all sectors need to do significantly more to meet their 2030 National emissions reduction targets.
  • The challenge is particularly evident in the agriculture sector. Methane emissions will need to reduce by up to 30 per cent to meet the lower range of its 2021 Climate Action Plan target.
  • Urgent implementation of all climate plans and policies, plus further new measures, are needed for Ireland to meet the 51 per cent emissions reduction target and put Ireland on track for climate neutrality by 2050.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today published its Greenhouse Gas emissions projections for the period 2021-2040.

The data shows that planned Climate policies and measures, if fully implemented, could deliver up to 28 per cent (4 per cent per annum) emissions reduction up to 2030. As such Ireland could comply with its 2030 EU emissions reduction target only if all committed measures are implemented and delivered as planned and with full use of the permitted flexibilities.

Urgent implementation of all climate plans and polices, plus further new measures, are needed for Ireland to meet the 51 per cent emissions reduction target and put Ireland on track for climate neutrality by 2050.

Speaking today at the EPA’s Climate Change Conference in Croke Park Laura Burke, Director General, EPA said:

“These projections show the scale of policy development and implementation needed to match the ambition of our Climate Act 2021 and Carbon Budget targets. There is a significant gap between the ambition in the Climate Act and the realisation of the necessary actions to deliver on that ambition.”

She added:

“The data shows that a step up in both the implementation of actions already set out in plans and policies and the identification of new measures is needed. All sectors have work to do, in particular the Agriculture sector. As the largest contributor of National emissions, more clarity is needed on how and when it will implement actions to reduce methane within the ever-shortening timeframe to 2030.”

The projections indicate that we have returned to pre-pandemic levels of activity, particularly in the transport sector, with associated levels of emissions. This return is likely to be exacerbated by a return to higher levels of coal used in electricity generation to meet growing national energy demand and current geopolitical impacts on energy.

Total greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to have increased by 6 per cent in 2021. It is projected that the impact of reduction measures will result in emissions decreasing from 2023 onwards. The impact of measures on a sectoral basis include:

Agriculture

Under the with existing measures scenario emissions are projected to increase by 1.9 per cent over the 2020-2030 period. A methane emissions reduction of almost 30 per cent is required to achieve a 22 per cent reduction in Agriculture emissions compared to 2018, as committed to in the 2021 Climate Action Plan. The sector must clearly set out how this will be achieved to address uncertainty regarding its ability to deliver even the lower end of the range of its sectoral targets within the ever-shortening timeframe to 2030.

Transport

The end of COVID travel restrictions is projected to result in transport emissions increasing by 18-19 per cent from 2020 to 2022. Emissions from the sector are projected to reduce to 39 per cent below 2018 levels by 2030 if the additional measures set out in plans and policies are implemented. These include over 940,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030, increased biofuel blend rates and measures to support more sustainable transport.

Energy

Increased coal use from 2021, as a result of unavailability of sufficient gas-fired generation to meet growing energy demand followed by changes in relative fuel price threatens to undo some of the good work done over recent years and negatively impact achievement of National targets, particularly for the first carbon budget period. Despite this, increased renewable energy generation, if delivered as planned, can reduce Energy Industry emissions by 10 per cent per annum from 2021-30, achieving up to 78 per cent renewable electricity generation by 2030.

Home Heating

Spending more time at home due to home/office hybrid working and the increasing cost of fossil fuels has highlighted a need for improvements in home heating efficiency and better insulation. Current implemented policies and measures can only deliver a 24 per cent reduction in emissions from this sector by 2030. This highlights the need for implementation of the additional policies and measures such as those in the Climate Action Plan, which include the installation of 680,000 heat-pumps by 2030 as well as retrofitting 500,000 homes. These are projected to achieve a 41.5 per cent reduction in residential emissions in 2030 compared to 2018.

Commenting, Stephen Treacy, Senior Manager, EPA said:

“The message from the authors of the recent IPCC report on climate mitigation was clear – it’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible. In Ireland, implementation of measures has consistently lagged far behind planning. It is important that all planned actions are implemented as soon as possible while, in parallel, identifying actions to address the remaining gap to meet carbon budget limits.”

See full detail on the Greenhouse Gas Emission Projections 2021 to 2040  and  EPA Greenhouse Gas web resource on the EPA website.

Notes:

Background

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the national body with responsibility to develop, prepare and publish projections of greenhouse gas emissions for Ireland. The EPA produces national greenhouse gas emission projections on an annual basis. These projections are compiled in accordance with and to meet EU reporting obligations. They are also prepared to inform national policy development.

The EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Emission projection is an estimate of what emission levels are likely to be in the future. They are based on key assumptions such as economic growth, fuel prices and Government policy.

This is the first set of projections prepared following the enactment of the Climate Act and the 51 per cent target contained therein. The policies measures contained in the Climate Action Plan 2021 are included in the projections with a number of exceptions including:

  • Accounting for forestry removals post 2030
  • Measures aimed at achieving potential savings from a decrease in embodied carbon in construction materials
  • Emissions reductions associated with Carbon Capture and Storage
  • Unallocated savings as stated in table 3.1 of Chapter 3 of the Climate Action Plan 2021 and ‘further measures’ in the transport sector where no specific measures have been identified.

EU Targets

EU greenhouse gas emission targets and reduction obligations for Ireland are split into two broad categories.  The first category covers the large energy and power (i.e. energy intensive) industry which are controlled under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.  The second category deals with the non-Emissions Trading Scheme sectors such as agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, waste and non-energy intensive industry.

The Environmental Protection Agency produces greenhouse gas emissions projections on an annual basis for all sectors of the economy in collaboration with relevant State and other bodies. The following are key underlying data that underpin this year’s greenhouse gas emissions projections:

  • Energy-related emissions projections are based on updated energy projections provided to the Environmental Protection Agency by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland in Q1 2022.
  • The energy projections were prepared in conjunction with the Economic and Social Research Institute who produced energy demand projections using the I3E model (Ireland Environment, Energy and Economy model).
  • Agriculture emissions projections are based on data from Teagasc which were provided to the Environmental Protection Agency in January 2022. Projections are based on an analysis undertaken by Teagasc of the projected national herd population, crop areas and fertiliser use which considers the impact of National Policy and projected International commodity prices for the agriculture sector.

On 14th May 2018, the European Council adopted a regulation on greenhouse gas emission reductions. The regulation sets out binding emission reduction targets for member states in sectors falling outside the scope of the EU emissions trading system for the period 2021-2030.  The Regulation (EU 2018/842 – the Effort Sharing Regulation) maintains existing flexibilities under the current Effort Sharing Decision (e.g. banking, borrowing and buying and selling between Member States) and provides two new flexibilities to allow for a fair and cost-efficient achievement of the targets.

Flexibilities under the Effort Sharing Regulation include the allowance by eligible Member States to achieve their national targets by covering some emissions with EU ETS allowances which would normally have been auctioned. EU-wide, this cannot be more than a combined total of 100 million tonnes CO2 over the period 2021-2030. Also, to stimulate additional action in the land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector, Member States can use up to a combined (EU-wide) total of 280 million credits over the entire period 2021-2030 to comply with their national targets. All Member States are eligible to make use of this flexibility if needed to achieve their target, while access is higher for Member States with a larger share of emissions from agriculture. This recognises that there is a lower mitigation potential for emissions from the agriculture sector.

The LULUCF flexibility allows for Ireland to account for greenhouse gas removals of up to 26.8Mt CO2eq over the compliance period. The ETS flexibility allows Ireland to transfer emissions of up to 4% of 2005 levels per annum from the non-ETS to ETS sector, reducing the mitigation requirement in the non-ETS sector while cancelling the corresponding ETS allowances.

Scenarios Used

Greenhouse gas emissions are projected to the year 2040 using two scenarios:

  • The With Existing Measures scenario assumes that no additional policies and measures, beyond those already in place by the end of 2020, are implemented. This is the cut off point for which the latest national greenhouse gas emission inventory data is available.
  • The With Additional Measures scenario assumes implementation of the With Existing Measures scenario in addition to planned government policies and measures that have not been implemented yet or were announced after the end of the 2020. Importantly, this includes Ireland’s 2021 Climate Action Plan. This Plan, published in November 2021, sets out a major programme of policies and measures aimed to help Ireland achieve its decarbonisation goals.

An overview of total projected emissions by sectors (which include ETS and non-ETS emissions) under the With Additional Measures is presented in Table 1 and Figure 1.

Table 1. Projected greenhouse gas emissions to 2030 under the With Additional Measures Scenario

Mt CO2 eq 2020 2021 2025 2030 Growth 2021-2030
Agriculture 22.37 22.57 20.34 17.83 -21.0%
Transport 10.28 10.92 10.98 7.40 -32.2%
Energy Industries 8.74 11.33 8.71 4.46 -60.6%
Residential 7.13 6.92 5.61 4.00 -42.1%
Manufacturing Combustion 4.52 4.52 4.29 3.69 -18.2%
Industrial Processes 2.11 2.13 2.24 2.38 11.6%
Commercial/Public Services 1.83 1.83 1.54 1.00 -45.5%
F-Gases 0.74 0.74 0.74 0.67 -8.4%
Waste 0.98 0.95 0.88 0.83 -13.1%
Total 58.70 61.91 55.32 42.27

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