The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published its provisional greenhouse gas emissions for Ireland for 2022. The figures show a reduction of 1.9% compared to 2021, with emission reductions in all key sectors except transport.

In total, 60.76 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2eq) were emitted excluding emissions from Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF).

The report highlights that 47% of Ireland’s carbon budget for 2021-2025 has been used in the first two years. An extremely challenging annual reduction of 12.4% is required for each of the remaining years if Ireland is to stay within the budget.

The figures also show that Ireland exceeded its 2022 annual limit under the European Union’s Effort Sharing Regulation(EU 2018/842). These annual limits have been reduced further from 2023 onwards as Ireland’s Effort Sharing commitment increased from a 30% reduction on the 2005 level by 2030 to a 42% reduction.

Laura Burke, director general, EPA, said: “An overall emissions reduction is welcome, and it is encouraging to see the impact of action across key economic sectors. Drivers for this reduction were higher fossil fuel prices and associated behavioural change, more renewable energy, and the impact of regulation such as the nationwide ban on smoky fuels in home heating.

“While welcome, this decrease in emissions needs to be significantly ramped up. We need faster progress on the actions set out in national climate action plans to decarbonise and transform all sectors of Ireland’s economy, to stay within national carbon budgets and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030.”

A summary of the trends from key sectors:

Energy industriesEmissions decreased by 1.8% despite a 2.1% increase in overall electricity demand. The reductions were driven by reductions in coal, oil and peat used in electricity generation (-16.1%, -29.1% and -24.8% respectively). These reductions, however, were largely offset by the highest gas usage since 2010 (up 12.6% compared to 2021). The emissions intensity of electricity generation declined to 331g CO2/kWh in 2022 (from 348g CO2/kWh in 2021) due to increased renewable energy, but remained above 2020 levels. 

AgricultureEmissions overall decreased by 1.2% or 0.29 Mt CO2eq in 2022.  A welcome decrease of 14%t in nitrogen fertiliser use, to 343,000 tonnes, made significant progress towards the 330,000 tonne target for 2025 in the Climate Action Plan and resulted in 0.44 Mt CO2eq less emissions from agriculture. These reductions offset the impact of higher dairy cow numbers which increased for the 12th successive year. Total milk production increased by 0.7% in 2022, with milk output per cow decreasing slightly (-0.2%).

Residential: Emissions decreased significantly by 12.7% to 6.1 Mt CO2 eq. The main drivers for the decrease included a large rise in fossil fuel prices, warmer weather and new nationwide solid fuel regulations that ban the use of smoky fuel in home heating.

TransportEmissions increased by 6% (to 11.63 Mt CO2 eq), following a similar increase in 2021. Overall higher transport activity – both private cars and freight transport – is eroding the impact of electric vehicles. In 2022, there were 72,000 battery electric (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric (PHEVs) which is approximately 3% of the Climate Action Plan target for 2025. Emissions in this sector in 2022 were 4.6% below the pre-pandemic level seen in 2019.

Land-Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULULCF)This sector accounted for 10.7% of the total emissions in 2022 (including LULUCF) and decreased by 0.5%. The main source of emissions is from grasslands on organic soils that have been drained for agricultural production. Net grassland emissions were 6.8 Mt CO2 eq in 2022 while Forest land became a net source in 2022 (0.4 Mt CO2 eq) as more trees reached harvesting age.

Mary Frances Rochford, programme manager, EPA said: “Current decarbonisation actions are being outpaced by increased energy demand across the economy and dependence on fossil fuels for energy generation.

"A significant increase in transport emissions in 2022 highlights the fact that a growing economy, with high employment, will continue to produce emissions if we do not break the link and decouple emissions from increased activity by using cleaner and alternatives sources of energy.”

The Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory 1990 to 2022 is available on the EPA website and the EPA Greenhouse Gas web resource is also available online.