We need to move further away from fossil fuels, EPA emissions projections show

The previous article describes how changing the energy supply mix is reducing carbon emissions however, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) projections released recently show that Ireland’s total greenhouse gas emissions will increase from current levels to 2020, underpinned by strong economic growth. This is despite an EU target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent on 2005 levels from the non-Emissions Trading Scheme (non-ETS) sector –  agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, non-energy intensive industry and waste. The latest projections show that, at best, Ireland will only achieve a one per cent reduction by 2020 compared to the 20 per cent reduction target. 

In relation to 2030, Ireland’s target calls for a 30 per cent reduction of emissions compared to 2005, with binding annual limits over the 2021-2030 period. These latest projections indicate that Ireland will exceed the allowable carbon budget implied by those limits by between 47-52Mt over the period, even assuming the allowed-for flexibilities are fully used.

 The latest projections show that increasing fossil fuel consumption and an expanding agriculture sector are leading to increased emissions. In particular,

  • Energy industry emissions – mainly power generation – are projected to grow strongly from 2020 to 2025 as a result of an expansion of co-firing of peat and biomass;
  • Transport emissions are projected to increase from current levels by 17-18 per cent by 2020 and by 17-20 per cent by 2030.  A decline in emissions is projected from 2025 to 2030, resulting from an acceleration in the number of electric vehicles on Irish roads;
  • Agriculture emissions are projected to increase by between 3-4 per cent by 2020 and 6-7 per cent by 2030 on current levels based on an expansion of animal numbers, particularly for the dairy herd.

Commenting on the figures, Dr Eimear Cotter, Director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability, said,

“The EPA’s latest greenhouse gas emissions projections show that emissions will continue to grow in tandem with economic growth in the absence of significant new policy interventions. There will be strong growth in the short term in emissions from transport driven by increased fossil fuel consumption, while continued use of coal and peat in power generation offsets the addition of new renewable generation. Achieving stated commitments in relation to our national policy position and greenhouse gas emission reductions requires action on many fronts and across each sector. In particular, we are highlighting the need for a decisive move away from fossil fuels through significantly improved energy efficiency and the use of cleaner, renewable fuels.”

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