Ireland’s failure to tackle climate change was laid bare yesterday in a report that showed greenhouse gas emissions had risen by 7 per cent since 2015 despite policies aimed at reducing them.
The country is likely to face multimillion-euro fines for failing to meet EU 2020 targets or will have to spend similar amounts buying credits from member states who overachieve on their targets.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that comprehensive action must be taken after its latest report showed that Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 3.5 per cent last year on top of a similar rise in 2015. The increases, caused by the growing economy, have undone all the progress made since 2009. The EPA found increases across three main sectors: agriculture, which contributed 2.7 per cent more emissions, transport, which emitted 3.7 per cent more, and the energy industry, which was responsible for a 6.1 per cent rise.
Eimear Cotter, of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability, said that not enough had been done to make the sectors more efficient so that when the economy began to grow, emissions would not rise significantly.
She said: “We need to adopt a greater sense of urgency about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels while radically improving energy efficiency. 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 significant risks in relation to meeting our decarbonisation objectives.”
A report compiled by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in 2014 estimated that missing the EU greenhouse gas emissions targets could cost Ireland €90 million. There will also be a cost if Ireland does not meet its 2020 renewable energy target. The 2014 report estimated this could be between €140 million and €600 million. Since then government efforts have been undone by the failure to separate greenhouse gas emissions and economic growth. Transport emissions increased by 13 per cent in the past four years as the economy and employment grew and showed no sign of falling in the short term. The 3.7 per cent increase in energy emissions was also due to economic growth and less favourable weather conditions for renewable energy.