Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Ireland
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in Ireland. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
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Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Ireland
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in Ireland. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
Published:
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Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Ireland
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in Ireland. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
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What percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions does Ireland produce?

Ireland produced 0.13% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 (the latest date with complete emissions data). This amounted to 59.5m metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or MtCO₂e. These emissions represented a decrease from 2019 by -3.4%.

In the period from 1990 to 2020 their emissions have increased by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 0.16% and Ireland has contributed 0.17% of global greenhouse emissions.

CountryIreland
Population5.03m
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in USD$499bn
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 202059.5m
Change in Emissions since 2019-3.4%
Percentage of Total Emissions (2020)0.13%
Rank – Emitters in 202069
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions since 19902.02bn
Compound Annual Growth – Emissions since 19900.16%
Percentage of Total Emissions (1990-2020)0.17%
GDP Per Capita (USD)$99.2k
Emissions Per Capita11.8

In 2020, Ireland was the world’s 69th largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. The largest emitters in the same period were China, the United States, India, Russia and Japan.

Emissions per capita in Ireland – average household carbon footprint

The population of Ireland is 5.03m. On a per capita basis, they produce 11.8 tonnes of CO2e per person, placing them 22nd out of 191 on emissions produced per capita. The biggest per capita emitters are Qatar, Turkmenistan, Kuwait and Bahrain.

What is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland?

Gases

56.7% of emissions in Ireland came from Carbon Dioxide (CO2), 25.6% came from Methane (CH4), and 16.1% came from Nitrous Oxide (N2O).

Sectors

The sector that produced the most emissions in 2020 was the energy industry, producing 32.5m of GHG emissions, constituting 54.6% of total.

The second and third largest emitting sectors were agriculture and land-use change and forestry, producing 39.3% and 11.7% of total GHG in Ireland.

Energy

The industry that produced the most energy related emissions was the transportation industry, producing 10.2m of GHG emissions, constituting 17.1% of total emissions.

The second and third largest emitting sectors were electricity/heat and building, emitting 8.91m and 8.84m tonnes of GHG each.

Land Use Change and Forestry

Land use change and forestry (LUCF), such as deforestation and conversion of natural ecosystems to agricultural or urban areas, can have a significant impact on carbon emissions.

  • Trees and other vegetation absorb and store carbon through the process of photosynthesis, and when they are cut down or burned, that stored carbon is released into the atmosphere.
  • Deforestation and other forms of land use change can also reduce the ability of ecosystems to absorb and store carbon in the future. Additionally, the conversion of land for agriculture or urban development can lead to the release of carbon stored in the soil.
  • On the other hand, sustainable forestry practices, such as reforestation and afforestation, can help to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in trees and other vegetation.

In the case of Ireland, LUCF had a negative impact on Ireland’s emissions, increasing their carbon footprint by 6.97m tonnes.

After accounting for land use change and forestry, the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland in 2020 was 66.5m metric tonnes.

How vulnerable is Ireland to the impact of climate change?

The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) Index

The ND-GAIN Index measures countries’ vulnerability to global challenges, including climate change, and their readiness to improve resilience.

Ireland scores 65.1 on the ND-Gain Index and is classified in the ‘low vulnerability and high readiness’ category of climate change preparedness.

The index aims to assist businesses, governments, and communities in prioritising investments for a more efficient response to global shifts.

It is measured by combining two main components:

  1. Vulnerability: This evaluates a country’s vulnerability to environmental risks and its ability to adapt. It considers health, food and water availability, infrastructure, and ecosystem services. A higher score indicates greater vulnerability to environmental challenges.
  2. Readiness: This measures how well a country can leverage investments to mitigate climate change. It considers economic stability, governance, technology, and infrastructure. A higher score means a country is better prepared to implement resilience strategies.

This ranking helps identify areas where resources and adaptation strategies can be most effectively directed to mitigate risks and enhance resilience.

By combining these dimensions, the index provides a comprehensive approach to measuring countries’ ability to cope with the impacts of climate change.

Low vulnerability and high readiness in Ireland

In terms of readiness to adapt to climate change, Ireland ranks in the top 25% group. Globally, the average readiness score is 0.424, with Ireland posting a score of 0.6.

They show the greatest strength in governance aspects, while their performance in social aspects requires improvement.

  • Governance readiness refers to the political, legal, and regulatory aspects influencing a country’s adaptation to climate change, including stability, corruption control, and law enforcement.
  • Social readiness refers to the societal factors like inequality, education, and technology infrastructure that affect a country’s ability to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Regarding vulnerability to climate change, Ireland falls into the top 10% category. Compared to the global average vulnerability score of 0.431, Ireland has a score of 0.298.

Their resilience is most notable in food areas, yet they face significant challenges in habitat.

  • Food vulnerability refers to the sensitivity of agricultural yields and import dependencies, as well the capacity to adapt through agricultural resources. Innovations in agriculture can mitigate food insecurity risks due to climate change.
  • Human habitat refers to the growth of cities and their capacity to withstand climate change impacts like floods and heatwaves. Improved infrastructure enhances urban resilience to extreme weather events.

The formula to calculate the ND-GAIN Index is

GAIN Index=(Readiness Indicators−Vulnerability Indicators+1)×50GAIN Index=(Readiness Indicators−Vulnerability Indicators+1)×50

In this formula:

  • The Readiness Indicators are measured on a scale of 0 to 1, where a higher score means that the readiness is better.
  • The Vulnerability Indicators are also measured on a scale of 0 to 1, but a lower score indicates better vulnerability in this case. 
  • The difference between the Readiness and Vulnerability scores is calculated and then incremented by 1. 
  • Finally, the result is multiplied by 50 to convert the GAIN Index score to a range of 0-100, where a higher score means the situation is better.

Is there a correlation between greenhouse gas emissions and economic growth in Ireland?

In 2020, the gross domestic product (GDP) in Ireland grew by 6.7% from the previous year, with the economy moving from $399bn to $426bn. During the same period, carbon emissions decreased by -3.4%. Over the ten-year period from 2010 to 2020, GDP grew 91.9%, while emissions decreased by -8.4%.

To put this into context, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of GDP in Ireland over the past ten years was 6.7%, and the CAGR for greenhouse gas emissions was -0.88%.

Sources

World Resources Institute, 2022. Climate Watch Historical GHG Emissions. [online] Washington, DC. Available at: https://www.climatewatchdata.org/ghg-emissions.

Global Carbon Project, 2023. Supplemental data of Global Carbon Budget 2023 (Version 1.1) [Data set]. Global Carbon Project. Available at: https://doi.org/10.18160/gcp-2023.

UNFCCC, 2023. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Data. [online] Available at: https://di.unfccc.int.

Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative, 2023. ND-GAIN Country Index. [online] Available at: https://gain.nd.edu.

FAO, 2022. Land-Use Change and Forestry or Agriculture indicators from FAOSTAT Emissions Database. [online] Available at: https://www.fao.org/faostat/.

OECD/IEA, 2022. CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion. [online] Available at: https://www.iea.org/reports/co2-emissions-in-2022.

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