Real threat of GHG emission fines of €450 million

“From 2020 onwards, we’re heading into some pretty major fines for not meeting our obligations” according to Leo Varadkar

The Environmental Protection Agency has stressed the need for action as Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions are on the rise. According to the agency, Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 3.5% (2.06 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) in 2016 – with significant increases observed across all the main sectors including the dairy and energy industries, as well as the transport sector.

Ireland is among a minority of EU nations where emissions are rising despite the increased awareness about the impact of climate change. The Government has signed up to reduce carbon emission by 20% by 2020 – but they actually rose for the past two years as the economic recovery took hold. Unless the current trend is reversed, some experts predict that Ireland could be facing fines in excess of €450m.

Dr. Eimear Cotter, director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability, has stated that: “Achieving Ireland’s long-term decarbonisation objective can only take place with a transformation of our energy, agriculture and transport systems. “We need to adopt a much greater sense of urgency about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels while radically improving energy efficiency,” she said.

The EPA has noted that agricultural production has gained some efficiency over this period; however, they also acknowledge that the sector still has “some way to go before full decoupling”.

Forestry remains the leading method of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere and mitigating the effects of climate change. The government’s national strategic plan for forestry in Ireland is to expand from 11% to 18% of the land area by 2046, in a bid to offset carbon emissions. At the current rate of new forest planting this seems an impossible task with only 5,300 hectares planted in 2017 which is a far cry from where the Forest Service at the Department of Agriculture would like to see the planting programme.