Northern Ireland’s (NI) total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions decreased by almost a quarter (24%) between 1990 and 2020.
Figures published this week by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) also confirm that NI’s total GHG emissions in 2020 accounted for 5% of the UK total.
This is higher than the region’s population share of 3%.
Greenhouse gas emissions
The largest sectors in terms of emissions in 2020 were agriculture (27%), transport (16%) and residential (14%). Most sectors showed a decreasing trend since the base year.
The largest decreases, in terms of tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), were in the energy supply, waste management and business sectors.
These were driven by improvements in energy efficiency, fuel switching from coal to natural gas, which became available in the late 1990s, and the introduction of methane capture and oxidation systems in landfill management.
Meanwhile, evidence of global warming having an impact in NI has now emerged.
The mean annual temperature for NI has been calculated from the Armagh Observatory temperature records.
Currently, the 10-year moving average trend line shows that the mean annual temperature reached a low towards the end of the 19th century, and has been steadily increasing since.
By the end of the 20th century, the 10-year moving average temperature had risen to its highest levels since the temperature records began.
The lowest mean annual temperature (7.35°C) was recorded in 1879; the mean annual temperature in 2022 (10.78°C) was the highest ever recorded.
The number of days per year where temperatures were recorded exceeding 20°C or falling below 0°C has also been calculated from the Armagh Observatory temperature records.
The 10-year moving average trend line shows that the number of warm days per year reached a low towards the end of the 19th century, and has been steadily increasing since.
The number of frost days per year reached a high at the end of the 19th century. The lowest number of recorded frost days per year was 16 days, in 1863 and 1943, while the highest number of warm days was recorded in 1859 at 71 days.
In addition, the amount of annual rainfall from 1853 to 2022 has been determined from Armagh Observatory records.
Since 1853, the 10-year moving average has remained between 748mm and 901mm of rain per year.
The records also confirm that 2002 saw the highest level (1,065mm) of annual rainfall over the time series, while the lowest level of annual rainfall was recorded in 1933 at 550mm.
Where biodiversity is concerned, the latest DAERA figures confirm that wild bird numbers continue to decline.
These figures have been garnered courtesy of surveys carried out on 56 bird species. NI bird populations peaked in 2005 and have been in decline since, driven principally by population declines found in farmland habitats.
In 2022/2023, 451ha of new woodland (72ha conifer and 379ha broadleaf) were planted by NI Forest Service and private landowners supported by grant aid.
Agri-environment schemes encourage farmers and landowners to manage their land to benefit the environment. At the end of 2022/2023, 63,800ha of land in NI were under agri-environment scheme agreement.