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Ireland’s air pollutant emissions – Wrong Pathway For Cleaner Air

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report on 2017 emission levels for the five main air pollutants.

These figures show that ammonia emissions increased by 2% cent in 2017. The trend in increasing ammonia emissions is projected to continue out to 2030.
Emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds also increased. Ireland is projected to exceed the 2030 emission ceiling for this pollutant.
While emissions of nitrogen oxides decreased in 2017, emissions are projected to be non-compliant with national limits in 2030.
Emissions of two other air pollutants; sulphur dioxide and particulate matter, decreased in 2017. These pollutants are projected to remain compliant with national limits, provided planned measures are implemented.

The EPA today published figures for emissions of five key air pollutants. These pollutants impact environment and health contributing to respiratory problems and pollution of soil, surface water and vegetation. These pollutants are: ammonia, non-methane volatile organic compounds, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

This latest information from the EPA shows that ammonia emissions increased by 2% in 2017, which followed a 5% increase in 2016. Agriculture dominates emissions of ammonia, which arise from the decomposition of animal manures and the application of fertiliser. This trend in increasing emissions is projected to continue out to 2030.

In addition, emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds showed an increase in 2017. These pollutants arise from the food and beverage industry and the storage and handling of animal manures and synthetic fertilisers. Non-methane volatile organic compound emissions are projected to increase slightly to 2030 as the gains from switching to less polluting sources are outweighed by increased economic activity and population growth. Ireland is therefore projected to exceed the more challenging 2030 non-methane volatile organic compounds emission ceiling, despite being in compliance for 2020.

Dr Eimear Cotter, (Director of Office of Environmental Sustainability) said: “Our figures show that ammonia levels are on an upward trend, in tandem with increased agricultural production, and that they breached national limits in 2016 and 2017. This has implications for air and water quality.The National Air Pollution and Control Programme, currently out for public consultation, will need to address these emissions particularly as they are projected to increase further to 2030. The underlying driver for these emissions is the application of more animal manure to soils — mostly as an organic fertiliser — and the increase in the use of inorganic fertilisers. Options to increase efficiencies and reduce fertiliser use will need to be implemented at farm level.”

Emissions of other air pollutants – sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter – decreased in 2017. This reflects a general downward trend in emissions since 1990 reflecting the impact of fuel switching from coal and peat to natural gas, penetration of renewables and technology improvements. Looking to the future, however, while sulphur dioxide and particulate emissions are projected to remain compliant with substantially lower national limits in 2030, provided planned measures are implemented, this is not envisaged to be the case for nitrogen oxide emissions. Nitrogen oxide emissions are projected to be non-compliant with national limits in 2030, with the transport sector projected to continue to be a key source of emissions.

Stephen Treacy, (EPA Senior Manager) said: “We have seen the positive impact of a range of policy measures and regulatory interventions since 1990 which are particularly evident in declining sulphur dioxide and particulate emissions. Fuel switching and the move to more renewables has brought dividends in terms of cleaner air, with effective regulatory intervention from the EPA also playing a role. It is important that this good work is not reversed in the context of a growing economy. Further measures are needed to meet national limits in the period from now to 2030, particularly for the pollutants ammonia, nitrogen oxides and non-methane volatile organic compounds”.

For further detail on these figures, see the EPA web published report “Ireland’s Air Pollutant Emissions 1990-2030” available HERE

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