14 Apr

Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas emissions projected to increase strongly.

2020 targets slip

Photo courtesy veeterzy.com

Blow to our Climate change fight as Greenhouse gas emissions projected to increase strongly.

According to the EPA, Ireland is unlikely to meet our 2020 EU greenhouse gas emissions targets.

They identify sectors under pressure such as agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, non-energy intensive industry and waste sectors.

What’s our target?

Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target is to be below 20% of our  2005 levels by 2020.

How are we doing?

Well, not so good say the EPA, the Government body tasked with monitoring our progress. They indicate that our emissions will be only 4 – 6% below 2005 levels by 2020.  That’s an epic FAIL. They also say why.  It’s due to the policies we’ve followed to date and in particular lack of action to engineer a reversal of rising levels.  Simply put, our current policies and measures are not enough to meet the  EU 2020 targets, with emissions projected to continue to increase out to 2030 and beyond.

They also say why.  It’s due to the policies we’ve followed to date and in particular lack of action to engineer a reversal of rising levels.  Simply put, our current policies and measures are not enough to meet the  EU 2020 targets, with emissions projected to continue to increase out to 2030 and beyond.

If Ireland was a Soccer premiership team we would be heading for the Emissions relegation zone based on our dismal results.

How can we fix this ?

The latest disappointing results demonstrate the need for radical new and innovative actions to meet the challenges that we face in making the move to a low carbon economy.
Ireland’s EU target for 2020 is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the non-Emissions Trading Scheme (non-ETS) sector by 20 per cent on 2005 levels. The non-ETS sector covers emissions from agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, non-energy intensive industry and waste sectors.

The latest projections show that:

  • Ireland’s non-ETS sector emissions are projected to be 4- 6 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, compared to the 2020 target of 20 percent below 2005 levels;
  • Thanks to the recession in the early years of the period (2013-2020) we beat our reduction targets but that credit has been used up and will not be enough to allow Ireland to cumulatively meet its compliance obligations.  EWe will exceed our annual obligation targets from 2016 onwards.
  • Our lethargy on energy efficiency and renewable energy progress further adds to the uphill challenge that the State faces.
  • Based on current Govt policy we will see increased emissions from the agriculture and transport sectors. This will be approx 74 per cent of Ireland’s non-ETS sector emissions in 2020.

For the period 2015-2020, agriculture emissions are projected to increase by 4 – 5 per cent. Transport emissions pitch in with a 10 – 12 per cent increase on 2015 levels.

Beyond 2020.

New EU obligations for Ireland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the decade after 2020 will be agreed at EU level during 2017.  So , the further away Ireland is from the 20 per cent reduction target in 2020, the bigger will be the compliance challenges in the following decade. We face a period of drastic action coming close to 2020 as the Government will be under growing pressure to avoid looming fines.

The numbers

An overview of total projected emissions by sectors (which include ETS and non-ETS emissions) under the With Additional Measures is presented in Table 1 below.

Table 1. Projected greenhouse gas emissions to 2030 under the With Additional Measures Scenario

Mt CO2 eq 2016 2020 2025 2030 Growth 2016-2030
Energy Industries 11.44 8.707 9.561 10.491 -8.30%
Residential 5.94 6.061 6.189 6.097 2.64%
Manufacturing Combustion 4.407 5.154 5.234 5.402 22.58%
Commercial and Public Services 1.957 1.592 1.744 1.824 -6.80%
Transport 13.018 13.072 14.839 14.702 12.94%
Industrial Processes 2.063 2.329 2.677 3 45.42%
F-Gases 0.991 0.916 0.836 0.722 -27.14%
Agriculture 20.019 20.643 20.646 20.156 0.68%
Waste 0.885 0.623 0.547 0.5 -43.50%
Total 60.72 59.096 62.273 62.892 3.58%

Talk was cheap- Greenhouse Gas emissions are not.

We are guilty of overpromising. (remember our Foreign aid promises?) This might be par for the course in electioneering mode but when it comes to international obligations we must deliver. A fact that is now starkly obvious to our dithering current Government.
Ireland has a national policy position that commits us to reducing our carbon emissions by at least 80% compared to 1990 levels by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors while achieving carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land use sectors.
If we are to realise this policy position and our aspirations to transition to a low carbon economy, then any new measures to be included in the upcoming and future National Mitigation plans need to be innovative and effective to get Irelands emissions back on a sustainable trajectory. This will take planning, investment and time. Our Governments  don’t excel at the former and have little of either of the latter. It looks bleak!

Incineration dilemma

A major contributor to GHG , NOx and SOx emissions is from large commercial incinerators. There’s also RDF and Peat burning power stations. The projection of future drops in volumes from the Waste sector, in the EPA table 1 above looks suspect, as the monster 600,000 tonne Covanta Incinerator in Dublin (it will begin to accept waste in September 2017) will add significantly to the overall load already coming from Indaver’s 200,000 tonne burner in Carranstown, Co. Meath. No doubt the EPA  will grant a Licence to the 2nd Indaver Burner slated for Ringaskiddy in Cork Harbour (currently before an Bord Pleanala). They did so on previous applications. So it is ironic that the EPA highlights our lack of progress in reducing  GHG emissions but will stand by and allow the Waste sector to contribute increased  GHG loads in the future. The lack of joined up thinking here is yet another explanation of the mess we are increasingly discovering about our Government policy and practice.

A ban on any new WasteTo Energy Incinerators will have immediate positive impact on cutting GHG emissions and focus our activities on Circular Economy compliant waste solutions, which will further benefit our economy.

Soccer teams in trouble and destined for relegation generally fire their manager. Unless results improve, maybe that’s an option for us too?

Our relegation will also mean massive EU fines, that’s our tax money gone to Europe and not available to us for our Country’s urgent needs. Ouch !

Fines or investment dilemma.

Might it be more rewarding to borrow the funds (at current very low interest rates)  to invest in accelerated  Electric transport infrastructure, Green Energy production incentives (solar farms, wind energy parks, micro generation), phase out of Peat Burning plants,   accelerate Energy efficiency incentives (commercial and domestic), initiate serious deep retrofit activity, create a national High Speed Train System to get traffic reduced and run education programmes to change our mindset on energy use and emissions. The interest on these loans will still cost much less than the EU fines and we will have assets to show for our efforts.


05 Feb

Is Denmark leaving the dark age of Waste burning?

It  might seem unlikely but a recent apparent u-turn on waste management policy in Denmark could be in the offing. It’s all driven by the 2050 EU  goals of Emissions reduction.

Is the Sun setting for Denmark's Incinerators?

Is the Sun setting for Denmark’s Incinerators?

We applaud Denmark’s environment minister Ida Auken who recently announced a new strategy that changes the nation’s priority from incineration to recycling.  Make no mistake about it, this is a monumental shift for Europe’s biggest waste burner. Anyone visiting Denmark notices the Incinerator stacks too frequently and the bottom ash heaps in Copenhagen harbour are ugly indeed.

So why has the  world champion of waste incineration changed course?

Over 50% of Denmark’s household waste is burned at  incinerator plants that convert waste into energy for residential electricity and heat. However, C02 emission levels are exceeding the goals set by the Kyoto Protocol and sources of POPs need to be shut down.  The country aims at becoming independent from fossil fuel by 2050 and this means having to close down all polluting power plants by then, including of course the offending waste-to-energy incinerators.

This will not be an easy task given the extent of Incineration in Denmark today. The perverse economic incentives of Incineration run contrary to waste reduction, reuse and recycling .It also delays new cleaner electricity generation from taking hold, such as the Wind energy sector. Dumping incineration gives a double whammy – reduced Co2, POPs emissions, lower volumes of waste and the bonus – a waste recycling and re-use industry can develop, creating new jobs.

”In Denmark we have been incinerating almost 80 % of our household waste. Even though this has made an important contribution to green energy production, materials and resources have been lost which could otherwise have been recycled. Now, we are going to change this”said Auken.

Auken will drive a pro-recycling strategy that calls for households to sort their waste into several bins rather than sending the majority of it to the incinerator. ‘Recycling should be common sense and come to us naturally,’ the environment minister declared. ‘Danes will have to sort more of their waste. The goal is definitely to recycle more and incinerate less.’

Welcome to the 21 st Century, Denmark! Those dark , smoke filled days will be just a bad charred memory for the next generation of Danes.

The Government strategy is outlined in the published report ‘Denmark without Waste’. October 2013 , which has a tagline of ‘ recycle more – incinerate less’. You can Download the Danish Environment Ministry’s Report to read more.

24 Jan

5 Questions for Dublin City Manager on Poolbeg Incinerator plans

With the Dail’s public accounts Committee putting some difficult questions to the Dublin City Council’s representatives on Jan 22nd 2014 we feel there is more to be probed than simply the gigantic overspend of taxpayers money on the planning phase.


incinerator stack

We think that Dublin City Council has serious questions to answer on the Poolbeg incinerator farce. We already know that they illegally extended a contract with RPS, and the High Court found that they had illegally attempted to prop up the collapsing incinerator project by forcing private waste collectors to use it. The Dail’s Public Accounts Committee needs to investigate deeply why they agreed to take on Covanta as a private partner without re-opening the tender process. They also need to ask why they signed the agreement with Covanta during the 2007 general election campaign when 

no government was in place.

As the committee convenes to scrutinize the City Council’s spending frenzy we have some pertinent questions to pose ourselves:


Present safety measures are designed to avoid acute toxic effects in the immediate neighbourhood, but ignore the fact that many of the pollutants bioaccumulate, can enter the food chain and can cause chronic illnesses over time and over a much wider geographical area. No official attempts have been made to assess the effects of emissions on long-term health.

Is there a baseline health study planned for residents in the downwind locations? Will there be a health monitoring programme over the lifetime of this facility? Who will conduct this?

Q2. Fly Ash disposal.

Incinerators produce bottom and fly ash which represent 30-50% by volume of the original waste (if compacted), requiring transportation to landfill sites. Abatement equipment in modern incinerators merely transfers the toxic load, notably that of dioxins and heavy metals, from airborne emissions to the fly ash. This fly ash is light, readily windborne and mostly of low particle size. It represents a considerable and poorly understood health hazard. This is a hazardous material and must be disposed of in a class 1 landfill site.

What are the arrangements in place to deal with the bottom ash and fly ash? Where will it be stored and how will it be transported and through what areas and in what conditions?

Q3.Air Pollution monitoring.

Monitoring of incinerators has been unsatisfactory in the lack of rigor, the infrequency of monitoring, the small number of compounds measured, the levels deemed acceptable, and the absence of biological monitoring. Approval of new installations has depended on modelling data, supposed to be scientific measures of safety, even though the method used has no more than a 30% accuracy and ignores the important problem of secondary particulates.

Can you outline the monitoring regime that will be in place and the measures planned to deal with excessive emissions or those found to be above the safe limits for Dioxins and Furans bearing in mind the length of time to test the samples taken and provide results?

What community alert system will be in place to warn residents of breaches in real time?

 Q4. Pops and Ireland’s Stockholm commitments.

The Stockholm Convention came into force 17th May 2004 –
Ireland ratified the Stockholm Convention on 5th August 2010 –
The Stockholm Convention entered us into force in Ireland on 3rd November 2010 .

There are a few elements of the treaty that are worth bearing in mind…..

Article 1 of Stockholm Convention
Mindful of the precautionary approach as set forth in Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the objective of this Convention is to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants.
Article 5 of Stockholm Convention Measures to reduce or eliminate releases from unintentional production
Each Party shall at a minimum take the following measures to reduce the total releases derived from anthropogenic sources (such as Incinerators) of each of the chemicals listed in Annex C (Dioxins and Furans), with the goal of their continuing minimization and, where
feasible, ultimate elimination:
(c) Promote the development and, where it deems appropriate, require the use of
substitute or modified materials, products and processes to prevent the formation and
release of the chemicals listed in
Annex C (Dioxins and Furans form Incinerators), taking into consideration the general
guidance on prevention and release reduction measures in Annex C (Dioxins and Furans
form Incinerators) .

As our Government Commitment and policy since 2010 is to implement the Stockholm Convention and reduce POPs how does Dublin City Council’s plan to commit to 600,000 tonne per annum of waste to the Incinerator Company and hence cause extra POPs to be produced align with our obligations under the Stockholm Convention to give primary consideration to alternative process to deal with waste such as recycling and waste reduction which will not produce new POP sources?

What consideration of alternative methods has been taken?
Is this contract to supply 600,000 tonnes of waste to the incinerator not a failure to give primary consideration to substitute processes such as recycling that would avoid the release of POP’s from incinerators?
How can Dublin City Council’s plan to commit to waste incineration and hence produce new sources of POPs be compatible with our commitments under Stockholm?


Incinerators presently contravene basic human rights as stated by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, in particular the Right to Life under the European Human Rights Convention, but also the Stockholm Convention and the Environmental Protection Act of 1990. The foetus, infant and child are most at risk from incinerator emissions: their rights are therefore being ignored and violated, which is not in keeping with the concept of a just society. Nor is the present policy of locating incinerators in deprived areas where their health effects will be maximal.

How can Dublin City Council comply with our obligations under the European Human Rights Convention?