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Ireland's climate change policies "not sufficient" to reach targets

The ESRI has said that a new action plan needs to be devised for Ireland, while Food Harvest 2020 should be re-assessed for its impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

A NEW ACTION plan needs to be devised for Ireland if it wants to achieve its 2020 climate change targets.

That’s according to the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), whose latest report presents projections of environmental emissions such as greenhouse gases, waste generation, and nutrients from agriculture covering the period to 2030.

The ESRI states that:

Our assessment is that existing climate change policies will not be sufficient to achieve Ireland’s 2020 targets. A new action plan needs to be devised with responsibilities and burden sharing agreed, including the options and scope for buying offsetting allowances.
Also in that context, Food Harvest 2020 should also be re-assessed for its impact on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as its potential to impact water quality via increased nutrients.

In April, the Environment Protection Agency projected that Ireland is expected to breach its annual obligations under the EU 2020 target or Co2 emissions, despite the fact that emissions dropped due to the downturn.

Kyoto Protocol & EU 20-20-20

The ESRI believes Ireland will comply with its Kyoto protocol target covering the period 2008 – 2012, but “compliance with longer term targets will be much more difficult”.  It expects that without significant policy intervention, actual emissions under the EU’s 20-20-20 will “substantially exceed the policy target”.

Agricultural emissions

Emissions from livestock are projected to increase by 1 million tonnes per year in 2020, under the implementation of the Food Harvest 2020 strategy – so the ESRI says that there is a case to be made at EU level that a special mechanism for managing agricultural emissions within Europe should be developed.

The ESRI also says that the current mechanism for managing emissions within the agriculture is a threat to realising any of the benefits in beef and dairy production in Ireland.

Industrial Sector

The ESRI projects that ‘F-gases’, which are potent greenhouse gases emitted in industrial production processes, could increase from 1 to 4 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions. It recommends amending controls to prevent growth from occurring.


Phasing out the use of peat as fuel would reduce emissions without significant negative impact on competitiveness, says the ESRI. It would also reduce particulate emissions, which have a negative impact on health.


Current schemes providing support for renewable energy projects will support expansion, but beyond that the outlook will remain difficult given business, planning, financial and technological challenges, says the report. The ESRI says to achieve a dramatic increase in renewable energy, a wider review of renewable policy at EU level and its impact on competitiveness and environmental benefits is merited.

Water quality

Regarding water quality, the report says that because of an expansion of dairy production by 50 per cent under Food Harvest 2020, an additional 22,000 tonnes of excreted nitrogen is to be expected per annum in 2020. It says that existing management practices are likely to be “inadequate to protect the environment from further harm under a scenario of expanding production”.

The ESRI recommends the establishment of a system to verify implementation of best practice for nutrient management within agriculture.

The report projects a reversal of the decline in waste generation, because of economic recovery, increased employment and a projected growth in the population.

By 2030 we project that municipal waste generation will be 33 per cent or roughly 0.9 million tonnes higher than current levels; and 24 per cent higher for household waste.

It adds that regional waste management plans, which are currently being reviewed, “will need to reflect anticipated growth in waste streams”.

Read: Ireland to breach EU targets for CO2 emissions>

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