PRIVATE cars, haulage trucks and air travel are driving Ireland's growth in CO2 emissions and energy consumption, according to two new reports published yesterday.
The reports, by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), show that if transport, excluding international flights, had experienced no growth in 2006, the country's overall carbon emissions would have dropped by almost 3pc.
The sector took up more than a third of Ireland's overall carbon emissions and 41pc of final energy demand.
Every area except transport, and including industry and electricity generation, recorded a decrease or small increase in energy-related carbon emissions.
And, with an increase of more than 7pc in energy consumption and emissions, it was the fastest growing sector in 2006.
Overall, Ireland's carbon-related energy emissions increased by 0.4pc last year and energy use increased by 1pc.
Although the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources said the reports showed that reductions in carbon emissions were possible, he singled out transport as a problem area.
"Transport remains an increasing area of energy use," Eamon Ryan said. "Even without the spectre of climate change, we will have to alter how we travel and how we fuel that travel."
The two reports, one on Energy in Ireland and the other on Energy in Transport, also illustrate the growth in car ownership since 1990, with the number of cars on the road growing by almost 50pc by 2006. A 5pc increase was recorded for last year alone.
And not only were more cars bought -- purchases of higher-polluting cars also increased.
In 1990, the largest share of private cars was below the 1.2 litre mark.
In 2006, the dominant share of private cars was in the 1.2 to 1.5 litre range. The number of cars on the road with engine sizes over 1.7 litres has grown from 13pc to 29pc.
However, sales of bigger polluting cars may drop when the new carbon-based car tax system takes effect from next July.
SEI's report on transport also shows that, since 1990, energy use by road freight has jumped by 255pc, car transport energy has more than doubled and energy use by air transport has risen by two-and-a-half times.
Virtually all energy use in the transport sector was dependent on imported oil products.
Although the reports showed that renewable energy in Ireland grew by 15pc in 2006, with the highest increase coming in the wind energy sector, Labour's Liz McManus described the figures as "pitiful".
"In 2006, the contribution made by renewable energy sources, like wind power, only reached 5pc of our total energy requirements," she said.
"Even in electricity generation the results are disappointing. Renewable energy only contributed 8.6pc to electricity generation."