IRELAND is on course to renege on its greenhouse gas obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, according to emissions figures released yesterday.
While our greenhouse gas emissions fell by 0.8% in 2006, we are still producing almost seven million tonnes more than our Kyoto Treaty limit.
Data released yesterday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that greenhouse gas emissions were 570,000 tonnes lower in 2006 than 2005, with decreases in the amount of gas released by agriculture and energy generation.
However, our total emissions of 69.77 million tonnes are now 25.5% above 1990 levels. Under the Kyoto Protocol, Ireland is only allowed a 13% increase.
EPA director-general Dr Mary Kelly said yesterday: “While the figures are encouraging, and the reduction of 0.8% is most welcome, the remaining distance to our Kyoto target is substantial and shows that we continue to face a major challenge. Reducing emissions in a growing economy will require a major effort on all our parts.”
Transport emissions were up by 5.2% in 2006, an increase of almost 680,000 tonnes. This trend was described as “particularly worrying” by Dr Kelly.
Transport emissions are now 165% higher than in 1990 and make up almost 20% of our greenhouse gas output. Road transport accounts for 97% of this figure, reflecting a trend towards purchasing larger vehicles, an increased reliance on private cars and more road freight transport.
Emissions from power generation were down by 4.6% in 2006, but this was partly because of a plant shut-down at Moneypoint in Co Clare while improvements were under way.
Commenting on whether Ireland can reach its Kyoto target by 2012, Dr Kelly said that the target will be met by “a combination of domestic actions with some purchase of carbon credits” as allowed under the Kyoto protocol.
“Today’s figures show that the Government’s target of 3% annual reductions in emissions over the next five years will be extremely challenging and further emphasises that actions to reduce domestic emissions must be intensified and strengthened,” she said.
“Greenhouse gases emitted now will remain in the atmosphere for many decades and affect the climate for centuries to come. Policy makers must use the detailed breakdown of figures in each sector, provided today, to focus on all areas where reductions are possible and need to be achieved.”
In the post-Kyoto period to 2020, reductions of 20%-30% on 1990 emissions are being proposed to avoid “irreversible and damaging climate change”.
Europe is attempting to limit the inevitable global temperature increase to 2C above pre-industrial times.