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Main Findings

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Global Context

  • The World's population increased by 201% from 2.5 billion in 1950 to 7.6 billion in 2018. The share of global population accounted for by Africa increased from 9% to 17% over this period, while that of Europe fell from 22% to 10%. Asia was the most populous region with 60% of the World’s population in 2018 (see Table 1.1).
  • Global life expectancy at birth increased from 47 years in the early 1950's to 70.9 years in 2015. Africa had the lowest life expectancy in 2015 at 60.3 years while North America had the highest at 79.2 years (see Table 1.3).

  • Emissions of greenhouse gases in Russia fell by 32% from 3.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 1990 to 2.2 billion tonnes in 2017. EU emissions fell by 23% from 5.6 billion tonnes in 1990 to 4.3 billion tonnes in 2017, while emissions from the USA remained stable at 6.5 billion tonnes. In contrast, emissions from Turkey grew by 140% from 219 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 1990 to 526 million tonnes in 2017 (see Table 1.4).

Environmental Economy

  • Revenue from environmental taxation in Ireland increased from €3.0 billion in 2000 to €5.2 billion in 2017. It fell to €5.1 billion in 2018 or 7.1% of total tax revenue (see Table 2.1).

  • Environmental subsidies in Ireland reached €895 million in 2017 (see Table 2.2).
  • Domestic material consumption (DMC) increased from 89.9 million tonnes in 1995 to 181.2 million tonnes in 2007, before falling to 95.7 million tonnes in 2014. By 2017, DMC had increased to 112.8 million tonnes (see Table 2.4).


  • Air quality in Ireland has improved since 1990 for all indicators except ammonia, emissions of which were 7.9% higher in 2017 than in 1990.
  • Ireland performed poorly compared with the emissions of other EU Member States in 2017. Ireland ranked 18th worst for PM2.5; 11th worst for sulphur dioxide; worst for nitrogen oxides; seventh worst for ammonia; and worst for NMVOC’s.

Greenhouse Gases and Climate Change

  • In 2017, Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions were 60.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. This was a reduction compared with peak emissions of 70.5 million tonnes in 2001, but was 9.6% higher than the 1990 figure of 55.4 million tonnes (see Figure 4.1).
  • Ireland had the third highest emissions of greenhouse gases per capita in the EU in 2017 at 13.3 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (see Figure 4.2).
  • Agriculture was the sector with the highest greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland at 33% of the total in 2017 (see Table 4.2). 


  • In 2018, 86.2% of bathing water sites in Ireland were classified as being of good water quality (see Table 5.1).
  • In 2017, 30% of urban waste water supplies in Ireland received secondary treatment with nutrient reduction compared with only 4% in 1997 (see Table 5.3).
  •  The proportion of unpolluted river water in Ireland fell from 77.3% in 1987 to 68.9% in 2015 (see Table 5.4).

Land Use

  • In 2016, 10.7% of Ireland’s total land area was covered by forestry (See Table 6.1). This was the second lowest proportion in the EU28 (see Figure 6.1).
  • The area of agricultural land farmed organically in Ireland increased by 267% between 1997 and 2017, when it accounted for 1.5% of total agricultural land. This was the second lowest in the EU28 in 2017 (see Figure 6.2).
  • Ireland had the fourth largest cattle herd in the EU28 with 7.5% of total cattle numbers in December 2018 (see Table 6.5).


  • Natural gas, as a proportion of total primary energy production in Ireland, declined from 54% in 1990 to 6% in 2015. It increased to 59% in 2016, with the coming on stream of the Corrib Gas Field, and was 58% in 2017 (see Table 7.1).
  • Renewable energy accounted for 30.1% of electricity generation in Ireland in 2017, close to the EU28 average of 30.7% (see Figure 7.2). 


  • Rail passengers in Ireland travelled an average of 444 kilometres per capita in 2017, compared with 1,447 kilometres per capita in France, the highest in any EU28 Member State (see Figure 8.1)
  • In 2017 34.4 million international passengers travelled through Irish airports, the highest figure over the 1995-2017 period (see Table 8.3).


  • Municipal waste generated in Ireland fell from 800 kilograms per capita in 2006 to 583 kilograms per capita in 2016 (see Table 9.1).
  • The recovery rate for packaging waste in Ireland increased from 25% in 2001 to 88% in 2016 (see Table 9.3)


  • The index of common bird species in Ireland increased from 100 in 1998 to 121.5 in 2016 (see Figure 10.1).
  • In 2017, Ireland had the joint third smallest area in the EU28 designated as terrestrial Special Protected Areas under the EU Birds Directive, and the eight smallest area designated as terrestrial Special Areas of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive, at 6.1% and 13.1% respectively.

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