IRELAND has a long way to go before it can match its traditional green image, with an international survey published yesterday, revealing that we have the seventh-largest carbon footprint in Europe.
The report by Friends of the Earth and the New Economics Foundation ranks 30 European countries on the size of their carbon footprints — measuring consumption of natural resources, which can be offset by reductions in the amount of carbon emissions.
According to the study — the European Happy Index — a sustainable carbon footprint is one hectare per person. However, Ireland’s population uses more than three times this amount of land for our dietary and other consumer needs, at 3.12 hectares.
In Europe, only Latvia (0.45 hectares) lives within its sustainable means, while Luxembourg is the worst-ranked country, on 6.68 hectares. Others to fare worse than Ireland in the list were Estonia (3.54), Finland (3.39), Britain (3.32), Greece (3.17), and
Meanwhile, the European Happy Planet Index also found that Ireland ranks mid-table in terms of life expectancy in Europe. Switzerland has the highest life expectancy at 80.5 years, with Ireland 17th on 78.2 years and Latvia’s 70.7 years the lowest in the index.
We are also mid-table for “happiness”, as measured with a “happy planet index” of 46.5, compared with top-ranked Iceland on 72.3 and bottom-ranked Estonia with 29.3.
The happy index was measured by combining carbon footprints, satisfaction and life expectancy.
The report found Europe is less carbon-efficient than 40 years ago, and people are just as likely to lead satisfied lives”, whether their levels of consumption are very low or high. “This means there is huge potential to reduce environmentally-damaging consumption, and that good lives don’t have to cost the earth,” the study said.
The Green Party made the reduction of Ireland’s carbon footprint and a contribution to slowing down climate change priorities in the run-up to the general election.
Since entering government, they set a target of a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, while a “revenue-neutral” carbon levy is to be introduced during the lifetime of the government.
Other measures due to come into effect include €100 million for energy-efficient buildings, an annual “carbon budget” and weighting of vehicle registration tax and motor tax in favour of cars with lower emissions.