On a global scale, Ireland’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions may seem so low as to be irrelevant. It is much more telling, however, to look at our per capita emissions. The average person in Ireland emits 32% more GHGs than the average European, making us the third biggest contributor to climate change per capita in the whole EU. In order to meet our 2020 climate goals, Ireland would need to have reduced our emissions from homes, small businesses and farms by 20% from the levels they were at in 2005. We are on track to reduce them by just 1%.
So why is Ireland lagging behind the rest of the EU? One reason is our massive beef industry. Agriculture was responsible for a third of all our emissions in 2017. We also produce unusually high emissions from transport, accounting for 39% of our energy-related emissions. Emissions from this sector dropped significantly during the recession, but recent economic growth has led to more private cars on the road, causing emissions to grow once more at an alarming rate.
Another reason that we are not on target to meet our Paris climate goals is our government. Back in July, Fine Gael used arguably sneaky and unethical tactics to kill the ‘climate emergency measures bill’. The bill, which was proposed by People Before Profit and passed by majority vote twice in the Dáil, would have made Ireland just the fifth country to ban exploration for new fossil fuel reserves.
Back in May, just days after reaffirming his commitment to climate action, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar issued new licenses that will allow multiple international companies to explore for gas and oil off our coasts until 2033. Ireland is 21% compliant with our Paris agreement goals, making us the second worst in the EU in this respect. For perspective, Sweden is 77% compliant. We badly need to catch up when it comes to climate action, but it seems this government is not making it easy for us.
Adam Boland – Science Editor