Emissions from agriculture increased by 0.48 million tonnes (2.6%) in 2013, on the back of increasing dairy numbers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released provisional greenhouse gas emissions figures today, which show that total greenhouse gas emissions fell by 0.7% to 57.81 million tonnes in 2013.

It says while the overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is welcome, the picture in individual sectors is mixed; specifically, those sectors not part of the EU emissions trading scheme all show increased emissions.

The EPA figures show over 70% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions come from three sectors. The highest emitter is the agriculture sector at 32.3% of the total.

Agriculture emission increase in 2013 was underpinned by increased fertiliser use and increasing animal numbers, with dairy cow numbers 2.0% higher in 2013 compared with 2012.

The EPA says the rise reflects national plans to expand milk production under Food Harvest 2020 and with the removal of milk quotas in 2015. ‘Other cattle’ livestock, which includes beef cattle, increased by 2.2% in 2013.

In addition, sheep numbers increased by 1.5%. This is the third year that this animal category has shown an increase and is consistent with favourable sheep market conditions in recent years. In contrast, pig numbers decreased by 1.4%.

Commenting on the figures Dr Eimear Cotter, Senior Manager, EPA, said Ireland’s relevant emissions are under the 2013 limit set by the EU which is very welcome. However, a number of sectors are underperforming in terms of achieving emission reductions.

“In particular, agriculture and transport – amongst the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland – both show higher emissions in 2013 compared to 2012.”

“In terms of agriculture, we need action to deliver a carbon neutral agri-food sector by 2050 that encompasses sustainable land management including forestry – this will require commitment at national, EU and international level,” she said.