IRELAND'S CO2 EMISSIONS
Ireland produces approximately 60 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year or 8 tonnes per person per year. This figure is on the upper end of emission ranges when compared to other member states of the EU.
The UK emits 5.7 tonnes while France emits 5.2 tonnes per person per year. Although Ireland does not contribute much in total to Europe's greenhouse gas emissions we are the third largest polluter in Europe per capita. We are also considered the worst country in Europe for climate action.
We are currently set to miss our EU 2020 targets by a substantial margin. The target was to reduce emission levels by 20% compared to 2005 levels. We could be set to achieve reductions of less than 5%. This will not just result in a heavy fine for the taxpayer, but will also make the task of reducing emissions by 30% by 2030 a much more difficult project.
The situation is made more difficult by our recovering economy, as emissions in all sectors are forecast to increase. It will be vital that greenhouse gas emissions are decoupled from economic growth.
The next few years will be instrumental in determining the future well-being of our island.
Why Should We Care?
It's true that as a percentage of the global total Ireland's emissions are insignificant. Severe climate change will not be averted unless major emitters such as China and the USA dramatically decrease emissions. Some people believe that for this reason it does not matter if Ireland reduces its emissions or not.
This is untrue for several reasons. It is the responsibility of the smaller countries to lead by example. We can not realistically pressure larger countries into change if we ourselves don't do so. Many larger nations look to renewable energy efforts in other countries in order to have a model for large scale implementation in their own country. For example the USA has shown interest in the Irish wave power industry as they look to harness wave power for themselves. Ireland has a large influence worldwide and is respected by many larger nations. We can use this to our advantage to persuade other countries to reduce their emissions.
Global warming will affect us all. It will require a global unified effort to prevent it.
Share of Emissions
The main contributor is agriculture at 33%, well below the EU average of 10%. Ireland is unique in this sense in that it has a large agricultural presence on the island which contributes greatly to our total greenhouse gas emissions.
The next highest contributors are transport at 19.8% and electricity at 19.3%.
An ambitious yet necessary goal for all countries is to achieve carbon neutrality, which equates to a balance in carbon emissions to carbon removal, or the production of no carbon emissions.
Built Environment (12.7%)
Waste and the Circular Economy
What do we need to do?
In order to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 Ireland will have to drastically reduce current emissions across all sectors.
The obvious way to do this is to increase renewable energy capacity in Ireland which will offset some of these emissions through the use of clean and sustainable electricity.
This will not completely solve the problem however as the agricultural sector will still contribute substantially to total emissions.
There is no easy way to solve this as agriculture has and will remain a key industry in Ireland.
The problem is worsened by the fact that 64% of agricultural emissions consists of methane produced from ruminant animals. The only way to decrease this at present is to reduce the number of livestock in the country, which is a polarizing viewpoint.
However, all industries must be scrutinized to allow for a meaningful reduction in emissions.
The government introduced the Climate Action Plan in June 2019 which outlines the changes necessary to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2030 and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Clink the link for a summary of the plan.