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. This had reduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but emissions are nearly back to standard levels.

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 missed our 2020 emissions reduction target, even taking the pandemic into account. We reduced our non-ETS emissions by 7% instead of the required 20%. Agricultural emissions even saw a 7% increase. 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 lively 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 37%, 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 18% and energy generation at 15%. 

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.

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.

More efficient buildings, an increase in the electric car fleet, and other sustainable methods will have to be discovered and employed.

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.