The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) published its annual analysis Energy in Ireland, which shows that Ireland’s energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 5.4% in 2021. Emissions are returning to pre-Covid levels of 2019, and further increases are anticipated based on initial data for 2022. Two significant drivers of the increase included a rebound in car use as the economy returns to pre-Covid activity levels, and an increase in the use of coal and oil in electricity generation. The current level of progress in moving to renewables and eliminating our fossil fuel use is not at the rate required to achieve our climate ambitions.
The report shows that the increase in 2021 emissions was driven by electricity generation (up 17.3%), transport (up 7.3%) and industry (up 3.3%) and compensated by decreases in residential (6.1%) and commercial and public services (2.7%) emissions.
Margie McCarthy, Director of Research and Policy Insights with SEAI, said, “Ireland has set strong targets in our carbon budgets, and legally enshrined them. We cannot afford to lose focus on the fact that these are annual budgets. Every year counts. If a target is missed one year, then the following years become more challenging. The Energy in Ireland findings show we are heading in the wrong direction, with our carbon budgets requiring a 4.8% decrease in emissions, yet in 2021 we have an increase in energy emissions of 5.4%. We must urgently move to renewables and use less oil, gas, coal and peat for our energy needs today to avoid making our future years even more challenging. We need a combination of increasing our generation of renewable electricity and switching to low-carbon technologies, such as electric vehicles, district heating and heat pumps. In addition, we need to use less energy and use it more efficiently through building efficiency upgrades and through changes in how we travel, at an unprecedented scale.”
Looking to 2023, there are many measures we need to take to reduce our CO2 emissions, and these actions are now more urgent than ever. These include:
- Develop further onshore and offshore wind and solar.
- Develop more energy storage and electricity interconnection.
- Increase the number of journeys where we walk, cycle or take public transport and decrease those in petrol and diesel using vehicles.
- Deploy district heating networks at scale to replace gas and oil use for heating.
- Replace petrol and diesel vehicles with electric vehicles.
- Upgrade the equivalent of 500,000 homes to a BER B2 rating or higher.
- Use more heat pumps in place of oil and gas boilers to heat buildings.
An updated Climate Action Plan is expected from the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) next week. This will provide an enhanced policy package and action list aimed at reversing the current emissions trends.
McCarthy continued, “preliminary data for 2022 suggests that energy-related emissions have increased further, putting us even more behind our targets than anticipated. For those wishing to get started on eliminating fossil fuel use today, SEAI offers a range of advice and Government funded supports for householders, businesses, and communities who want to reduce their use and make the switch to renewables. These supports include grants for home energy upgrades, electric vehicles, and energy upgrades to businesses and community buildings, and a range of supports for sustainable energy communities. We urge people to join the thousands who have already taken action and we thank those that have started their journey to decarbonisation. Any chance of staying within our carbon budgets depends on it.”