New greenhouse gas emissions data published today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) underline how completely off course Ireland is to meet its international commitments on climate action.

The overall slight reduction of 0.9% in total GHG emissions between 2016 is, in the EPA’s own words, due “to circumstance rather than deliberate action”, and in any event is wholly inadequate when measured against Ireland’s EU commitments as well as our obligations under the 2015 Paris Accord on climate change.

While welcome progress has been made in the electricity sector (emissions down 6.9%), residential (down 5%) and transport (down 2.4%) these gains have all but been wiped out by the agriculture sector, where emissions climbed by 2.9% to over 20 million tonnes in 2017.

The most significant factor in this increase of well over half a million tonnes in carbon emissions from agriculture in 2017 is the ever-expanding dairy herd, which grew by 3.1% last year. Overall, the dairy herd has expanded by 26% in the last five years, as EU production quotas were removed.

And, despite repeated efforts by Agriculture Minister Creed and his officials to imply that major ‘decoupling’ of dairy output and carbon emissions has taken place, in reality, only very slight efficiency gains have been recorded, and these have been completely overwhelmed by the rapid expansion of the national dairy herd. It is also disturbing to note an increase of 9% in the amount of agricultural nitrogen fertiliser used in 2017.

“It is both appropriate and ironic that these new EPA figures should be produced as the UN’s 24th Conference of Parties (COP) on climate change takes place this week in Poland”, according to an John Gibbons, An Taisce's Climate Change Committee spokesperson. “Respected naturalist, David Attenborough, reflecting the considered views of scientific organisations and academies across the world, this week warned the UN COP meeting that: “the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

An Taisce notes the comments by climate action minister, Richard Bruton on today’s EPA figures, including his statement that: “the reality is that we are 95% off course to deliver on our 2020 targets”. We welcome his stated commitment to an all-of-government approach to climate action, but remain sceptical that minister Bruton’s undoubted enthusiasm for action on climate change is widely shared by his Cabinet colleagues, or indeed his boss, Leo Varadkar”.

To date, the Taoiseach has appeared unengaged and uninterested in this crunch issue, and that lack of political leadership is an impediment to the kinds of radical, revolutionary actions we need to embrace if Ireland is to play its part in averting an irreversible global ecological catastrophe.

All 20 of the warmest years on record have occurred in just the last 22 years. As UN secretary general, António Guterres said this week: “For many, people, regions and even countries this is already a matter of life or death.”

Yet, there is still no sense whatever that the Irish political system has grasped the existential nature of the climate crisis, or woken up to the fact that Ireland is also highly vulnerable to climate disruption.

John Gibbons, An Taisce's Climate Change Committee stated “While often portrayed just in terms of costs, in reality, strong action on climate change can usher in a range of positive outcomes for Ireland, from energy independence to warmer homes, cleaner air and safer water and recovery of our damaged and degraded ecosystems”.

“The best time to have acted decisively on climate change was twenty years ago. The second best time is right now.”


For further information, contact:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: [email protected]
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.