Greenhouse gas emissions from road transport have almost tripled since 1990, the latest figures released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicate.
The 2006 figures published by the EPA show that while there was a marginal decrease of 0.8 per cent in emissions for the year compared to 2005, the improvement masked another substantial increase in transport emissions.
Emissions in this sector were up 5.2 per cent (or almost 680,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) in 2006. In the context of Kyoto, it means that road transport emissions have risen by 180 per cent since 1990. The rise is attributable to a massive increase in car ownership and a very strong preference among Irish motorists for bigger cars, including SUVs, in recent years.
"This is a worrying trend," conceded Minister for the Environment John Gormley. "It is one that will be addressed through, for example, the tax incentives that we are now providing for the purchase of lower emissions vehicles."
Mary Kelly, the director general of the EPA, also described the figures for transport as particularly worrying. "Major efforts will be required to halt and reverse this trend," she said.
Ireland's total emissions in 2006 of 69.77 million tonnes of carbon dioxide are 25.5 per cent above 1990 levels. The country is now 12 per cent above its Kyoto targets. Under the Kyoto Protocol, Ireland is allowed a 13 per cent increase on 1990 levels, which amounts to 62.84 million tonnes.
The slight overall decline was slightly misleading as a significant decrease in the energy sector (down 4.6 per cent or 750,000 tonnes CO2 equivalent) was mainly due to the Moneypoint power plant not being in use during long periods of 2006 because of plant improvements.
However, there was a downward trend of 1.4 per cent in agriculture. Nevertheless this sector remains the single biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland, contributing 28 per cent of the total.
Labour Party environment spokeswoman Joanna Tuffy said if the Government allowed our transport emissions to continue to rise at this rate all of the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in other sectors would be wiped out.
The Irish Times