The figures suggest that the country will easily meet its Kyoto targets – widely recognised as fairly weak – but will need to step up action if it is to meet more stringent goals.

On the positive side, it suggests that growth in vehicle emissions will slow as we approach 2020 and will be much lower during this period than it has been in either of the last two decades, partly due to the economic climate.

The projections also suggest that carbon sinks such as more forestry will be vital if 2020 targets are to be met.

The projections look at emissions sector by sector and highlight, once again, that the key sectors contributing to greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland are agriculture, energy and transport.

Mary Kelly, director general, EPA said: “National greenhouse gas projections are important in understanding Ireland’s greenhouse gas profile in the medium term, and in assessing the effectiveness of policy measures designed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

“The projections released today reflect the effects of the economic downturn, and the anticipated recovery, based on ESRI economic forecasts.

“Even with reductions due to the downturn it is projected that Ireland will still be 2.8 million tonnes per annum of CO2 above the non-ETS target in 2020 taking the most ambitious scenarios set out in Government policies and assuming that forestry sinks are fully included.”

“The clear message is that major challenges still exist in achieving real reductions in greenhouse gases which should not be underestimated.

“Failure to deliver on the measures outlined in Government policies will result in higher emissions than predicted. In particular, 20% of the reduction expected in 2015 under the most ambitious scenario, and 35% of that expected in 2020, are anticipated to come from as yet unspecified policies and measures.”

The EPA Projections of greenhouse gas emissions to 2020 are available on the EPA website.

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie