“The EPA’s overall finding is consistent with national policy. To balance economic development and environmental protection, we need increased eco-efficiency in terms of the use of natural resources and the reduction in environmental degradation. There are positive indications that some eco-efficiencies are being achieved, however this trend needs to be firmly established across economic activity”, said Environment Minister, Dan Wallace.

The Minister stressed the need to pay heed to the clear message emerging from this report: the environment is under increasing threat.

According to Minister Wallace, “Properly constructed indicators of environmental performance must in the future become as widely used and recognised as existing indicators of economic activity”.

Key conclusions of the Irish EPA report:

  • on a business as usual basis, Ireland would significantly exceed the greenhouse gas growth limitation target adopted in light of the Kyoto Protocol; reductions in emissions from all sectors must be achieved to realise the limitation target within the time frame allowed;
  • the length of river classified as unpolluted has dropped by 10%, from 77 to 67%, in the last decade, and slight to moderate pollution is continuing to increase; this is attributed to enrichment by animal manures, artificial fertilisers and to a lesser extent by sewage and other point discharges;
  • urban waste water treatment has begun to show a shift from primary to secondary treatment, and the addition of nutrient reduction facilities doubled to 4% since l994-5; substantial further progress is expected with major ongoing investment to implement the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive;
  • increasing vehicle numbers and usage are causing significant traffic congestion and noise in urban areas, and in Dublin they have led to concern about concentrations of airborne particulate matter associated with diesel and petrol vehicles;
  • sales of unleaded petrol as a percentage of total petrol sales reached over 89% by the first quarter of l999. As lead emissions from traffic have decreased, ambient air levels of lead from this source also decreased and are now very low;
  • waste statistics suggest a very large – over 62% – increase in household and commercial waste arisings over the eleven years l984 to 1995. With current practice heavily reliant on landfill, which is one of the least desirable options, an adequate infrastructure for modernised waste management is critical to the achievement of identified national waste targets.
  • progress has been made in packaging waste recycling, with the overall rate rising from 10.3% to 15.6% over the years l993-5;
  • a more pro-active approach to litter management is evident, with a dramatic increase in numbers of on-the-spot fines and prosecutions since the passing of the Litter Pollution Act, l997.

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