Climate Action in Ireland is not following Climate Ambition

Early estimates for 2021 suggest Ireland’s emissions are not on target

Analysis from Dr Paul Deane and Prof. Brian Ó Gallachóir of University College Cork indicates State’s greenhouse emissions are approximately 5% higher than 2020. 

During 2021, Ireland made a transformational change in terms of climate ambition. The Oireachtas voted in July 2021 overwhelmingly to enact new legislation that sets a target to halve our greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, equating to the second highest level of climate mitigation ambitions in the world over this period, second only to Denmark. Despite this ambition however, new analysis indicates Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions were approximately 5% higher than 2020 levels meaning we are not on track to meet climate goals.


What happened in 2021 regarding GHG emissions data for Ireland?

This 5% growth in GHG emission comes at a time when the scientific, societal, political and economic case to reduce fossil fuel use and associated greenhouse gas emissions has never been so clear. The rapid increase in oil, gas and electricity prices, the need to reduce our dependence on Russian fuel and the recent reports by the Intergovernmental panel on climate change all point to the urgent need to reduce fossil fuel usage.

Why is this significant?

Ireland enacted new legislation last year that set a target to achieve a 51% reduction in greenhouse emissions by the year 2030 relative to 2018 levels.

The legislation also provided for the establishment of carbon budgets as a key regulatory instrument in achieving the emissions reductions. This makes the target even more challenging as carbon budgets limit the total cumulative amount of emissions over five-year periods, rather than just having a focus on the final year.

What does this mean?

The Covid-19 pandemic and associated slowdown of the economy throughout 2020 resulted in Ireland’s emissions being the lowest in 27 years as we used our cars less and consumed less energy.

During 2021, Ireland’s emissions grew by 5% above 2020 levels, with this increase in greenhouse gas emissions across the economy being at odds with our ambition to reduce them urgently.

This raises key questions for Ireland going forward. 

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Dr. Paul Deane is Senior Research Fellow in Clean Energy Futures and Brian Ó Gallachóir Professor of Energy Engineering at University College Cork.