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Main Findings

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  • Air quality in Ireland has improved since 1990 for all indicators examined except ammonia, whose emissions were 4% higher in 2016 compared with 1990-1994.
  • Ireland performed poorly when examined against the emissions of other EU Member States in 2015, based on their progress towards the 2010 NEC targets. Ireland ranked 11th lowest for PM2.5, 22nd lowest for sulphur oxides, 26th lowest for nitrogen oxides, 17th lowest for ammonia, and 28th for NMVOC’s.

Greenhouse Gases and Climate Change

  • Greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland have fallen by 11% from an average of 68.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2000-2004 to 61.5 million tonnes in 2016.
  • Agriculture was the sector with the largest greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland at 32% of the total in 2016. Transport and energy were the next most important sectors accounting for 20% each of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2016.
  • Ireland had the third highest emissions of greenhouse gases per capita in the EU in 2015 at 13.2 tonnes of CO2 equivalent.


  • Ireland had the joint sixth worst level of bathing water quality in the EU in 2016 with 92.9% of bathing water sites classified as being of sufficient water quality, compared with an EU average of 96.3%.
  • The compliance rate of public water supplies with trihalomethane standards fell from an annual average 94.6 % in 2005-2009 to 93.1% in 2016.
  • In 2016, 27% of urban waste water in Ireland received secondary treatment with nutrient reduction compared with only 4% in 1997.
  • The proportion of unpolluted river water in Ireland fell from 77.3% in 1987-1990 to 68.9% in 2013-2015.

Land Use

  • In 2015, 10.6% of Ireland’s land area was covered by forestry. This was the second lowest in the EU.
  • Although the area farmed organically increased by 165% between 1997-1999 and 2016, Ireland had the second lowest percentage of agricultural land designated as organic in the EU in 2015.
  • Ireland had the fourth largest cattle herd in the EU with 7.4% of total cattle numbers in 2016.


  • Transport accounted for 41% of Ireland’s final energy consumption in 2015.
  • Renewable energy accounted for 24% of Ireland’s total primary energy production and 27% of its electricity generation in 2016.
  • Ireland had an imported energy dependency of 88.6% in 2015, which was the fourth highest in the EU.


  • In 2017, 96% of new private cars licensed were in emission bands A and B compared with 12% in 2005.
  • The proportion of females aged 15 years and over who drove to work increased from 27% in 1986 to 65% in 2016. In contrast, the corresponding proportion of males travelling to work by car increased from 42% to 53% over this period.


  • The amount of municipal waste generated in Ireland fell from an annual average of 718 kilograms per capita in 2001-2004 to 564 in 2014.
  • In 2001-2004, 71% of municipal waste was sent to landfill in Ireland. By 2014 this had declined to 21%.
  • In 2015, Ireland recovered 190 kilograms of packaging waste per capita, which was the third highest rate in the EU after Germany and Luxembourg.

Biodiversity and Heritage

  • The index of common bird species in Ireland increased from 100 in 1998 to 121.5 in 2016.
  • In 2016, Ireland had the joint second smallest area designated as terrestrial Special Protected Areas under the EU Birds Directive, and the eight smallest area designated as terrestrial Special Areas of Conservation designated under the EU Habitats Directive, at 6.1% and 13.2% respectively.

Environmental Economy

  • Revenue from environmental taxation in Ireland increased from an annual average of €3.2 billion in 2000-2004 to €5.2 billion in 2017 and represented 7.8% of total tax revenue in 2017.
  • Environmental subsidies and similar transfers in Ireland increased from an annual average of €566 million in 2000-2004 to €772 million in 2016.
  • Domestic material consumption in Ireland decreased from an annual average of 101.8 million tonnes in 1995-1999 to 97.9 million tonnes in 2015.
  • Atlantic Mackerel was the most common species landed in Irish ports by Irish vessels at 31.2% of the total tonnage landed in 2016.

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