EU Emissions Targets

EU 2020 Targets

Ireland’s 2020 target is to achieve a 20% reduction of non-ETS sector emissions on 2005 levels with annual binding limits set for each year over the period 2013-2020.The EPA produces GHG emission projections on an annual basis for all sectors of the economy. According to the latest projections produced by the EPA (March 2016), projected emissions for 2020 indicate that Ireland’s emissions at that stage could be in the range of 6-11% below 2005 levels. The likely outcome will be closer to 6%, representing a significant shortfall in terms of reaching the 20% reduction in 2020. This reflects both our reduced investment capacity over the period of the economic downturn, as well as the fact that the target itself was misinformed and not consistent with what was achievable on an EU wide cost-effective basis.

In the interim, the EPA projections suggest that Ireland may have a cumulative deficit of units in 2018. Some of this deficit can be addressed by means of the retirement of Annual Emissions Allocations and units from the Kyoto Protocol Flexibility Mechanisms carried forward from 2008- 2012. Over the period 2013-2020, the EPA projections for non-ETS GHG emissions are 350 Mt CO2eq, indicating a ‘gap to target’ of 12 Mt CO2eq. It is clear that further policies and measures beyond those that are already in place will be necessary to address compliance with Ireland’s obligations under the 2009 ESD, in the first instance, but also to ensure that Ireland is on a sound pathway to permanent and incremental decarbonisation to achieve the national transition objective, specified in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015.​​


EU 2030 Targets

Ireland will contribute to the Paris Agreement via the Nationally Determined Commitment tabled by the EU in March 2015 on behalf of Member States, which commits to at least a 40% reduction in EU-wide emissions by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels); this is based on reductions in the ETS and non-ETS sectors of 43% and 30% respectively (compared to 2005).

A proposal on the non-ETS targets for individual Member States, the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR), was published by the European Commission in July 2016. The ESR proposal suggests a 39% GHG reduction target for Ireland, based on GDP per capita, for the period 2021 to 2030. This target is adjusted downward for cost-effectiveness by 9 percentage points to give a headline target of 30%. While this target is not yet agreed, it is clear that it will present an enormous challenge for Ireland, which will require substantial investment by both the public and private sectors, as well as a broad range of non-financial policy tools, including regulations, standards, education initiatives and targeted information campaigns. Work is ongoing to cost various suites of measures that could meet the 2030 target as cost-effectively as possible.

EU Greenhouse Gas Emission Targets

The EU Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) established binding annual greenhouse gas emission targets for Member States for the period 2013–2020. These targets concern emissions from most sectors not included in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), such as transport, buildings, agriculture and waste. For the year 2020 itself, the target set for Ireland is that emissions should be 20% below their level in 2005. This compares with an EU average reduction of 10%. This will be Ireland’s contribution to the overall EU objective to reduce its emissions by 20% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. Ireland’s target is jointly the most demanding 2020 reduction target allocated to EU Member States under this Decision, which is shared only with Denmark and Luxembourg. Ireland’s 2013 target is based on the average of emissions for the years 2008 -2010. The target for each of the years 2014 to 2019 inclusive is on a straight-line trajectory between the targets for 2013 and 2020.

Ireland’s obligations under the Effort Sharing Decision will finish in 2020, at which point it will be followed up by the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR). This Regulation, which was adopted on 30 May 2018, sets out binding annual greenhouse gas emission targets for Member States for the period 2021–2030 inclusive. Under the ESR, targets have been proposed for Member States based on GDP per capita and the cost-effectiveness of domestic emissions reductions within individual Member States. The final agreement sets a target of 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (compared to 2005 levels) by 2030 for Ireland. This will be Ireland’s contribution to the overall EU objective to reduce its emissions in the non-ETS sectors by 30% by 2030 compared to 2005. The ESR was provisionally agreed by the European Council and the European Parliament in December 2017, and was formally adopted in May 2018.