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Drop of 6.4% in industrial emissions last year - but not for dairy and pharma

This compares with a decrease of approximately 11-12% across Europe.

Image: Shutterstock/Neil Tackaberry

EMISSIONS FROM IRISH power generation and industrial companies fell 6.4% – 0.9 million tonnes – last year, according to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This compares with a decrease of approximately 11-12% across Europe.

In its preliminary analysis of greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, the EPA credited the decrease in emissions to the impact of lower production in some industrial sectors during the pandemic, combined with a significant drop in power generation emissions.

According to data from the EPA, power generation emissions dropped by 8.4% as a result of the “strong presence” of renewable energy – mainly wind generation – and less use of fossil fuels, such as peat, in our energy mix.

The EPA notes that in contrast, emissions from the ESB coal-fired plant at Moneypoint increased by almost 27% last year, “mainly due to increased demand for balance on the National Grid”.

Aside from power generation, the decrease in industrial emissions collectively is 3.5% – with cement industries recording a drop of 5.7%. 

However, EPA Senior Manager Dr Maria Martin notes that many companies in the industrial sectors are seeing an increase in greenhouse gas emission every year.

In 2020, the dairy processing industry showed a 4% increase while emissions from pharmachem industries increased by 10.9%.

“We welcome the overall decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 from large industry and power generation. However, underlying this decrease are some contrasting trends. An increase in the use of renewables in the power generation sector – coupled with the impact of Covid-19 – leads to less emissions,” said Dr Martin.

“There are, nevertheless, many companies in the industrial sectors, such as dairy processing and pharmachem, where emissions are increasing year on year.”

A “positive development” she says is that the price of carbon in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) has continued to rise from just under €31 per tonne at the end of 2020 to €43 per tonne currently.

“It is not yet clear if this will be sufficient and stable enough to drive emissions reductions,” she added.

The EU emissions trading system is the European Union’s system for trading greenhouse gas emission allowances from electricity generation, industry and aviation – with the EPA the competent authority for the system’s implementation in Ireland. 

According to the body, Ireland’s reported emissions for 2020 added up to a total of 13.28m tonnes.

Snag_11ff20c Source: EPA

Meanwhile, the only airline showing an increase in emissions in 2019 and 2020 were those that specialise in air freight. Aviation emissions from flights within the European Economic Area reported to Ireland decreased by 63 per cent compared to 2019, to 4.74 million tonnes.

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The government has committed to an ambitious 51% reduction in 2018-level carbon emissions by 2030, plans for which will be set out in the first two so-called ‘carbon budgets’.

It’s hoped this reduction will be achieved through targeting the transport sector and industry, as well as an increased reliance on renewable energy.

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Adam Daly

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