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Background Notes

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The CSO wishes to thank: BirdWatch Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Department of Transport; Environmental Protection Agency; European Environment Agency; Eurostat; Met Éireann; Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland; and the United Nations for providing data and technical advice on the most appropriate indicators for Ireland. The structure of these background notes follows the ten domains referred to in this report: Global context; Environmental economy; Air; Greenhouse gases and climate change; Water; Land Use; Energy; Transport; Waste; and Biodiversity.

Domain 1 – Global Context

World population (1.1)

Global population figures for 1950-2020 were taken from the “World Population Prospect: the 2019 Revision” published by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Population figures for 2020 are estimates based on the UN’s medium fertility scenario. All population data refer to July 1st of the relevant year.

World child mortality (1.2)

Child mortality rates refer to the number of deaths of children before age five per 1,000 live births. The figures for 1950-2020 were taken from the “World Population Prospect: the 2019 Revision” published by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Child mortality figures for 2015-2020 are estimates based on the UN’s medium fertility scenario. Data intervals run from July 1st to June 30th.

World life expectancy (1.3)

Life expectancy figures were taken from the “World Population Prospect: the 2019 Revision” published by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. These figures refer to the life expectancy at birth of all children combined. Life expectancy figures for 2015-2020 are estimates based on the UN’s medium fertility scenario. Data intervals run from July 1st to June 30th.

World temperatures (1.4)

This indicator shows absolute annual changes in the average near-surface temperatures for the globe. Near-surface air temperature gives one of the clearest and most consistent signals of global climate change especially in recent decades. It has been measured for many decades and a dense network of stations across the globe provides regular monitoring for temperatures, using standardised measurements, quality control and homogeneity procedures.

The annual temperature variations reflect climate variability due to natural forces such as volcanic eruptions, solar activity or the El Nino Southern Oscillations but scientists believe that anthropogenic influence, mainly through greenhouse gas emissions, is responsible for most of the observed increase in global average temperatures in recent decades.

The 2015 Paris Agreement defined the long-term goal of limiting global warming to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 20 Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the rise in temperature increase to 1.50 Celsius above pre-industrial levels” (using 1850-1899 data as a proxy for pre-industrial levels).

Three datasets are used to map deviations in global average near-surface temperatures: (1) the Met Office Hadley Centre and Climatic Research Unit (HadCRUT4); (2) NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISTEMP); and (3) The National Centres for Environmental Information at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States (NOAA Global Temperature).

World greenhouse gas emissions (1.5)

Carbon dioxide is the main contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.  Other greenhouse gases can be converted into tonnes of CO2 equivalent by multiplying their masses by their global warming potentials.

Each of these gases is regulated by global environmental agreements: the Kyoto Protocol running from 2008-2012; a second Kyoto Commitment Period running from 2013-2020; and an agreement adopted in Paris in 2015 which comes into force in 2020.

Annex 1 countries were defined under the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as industrialised countries that were members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in 1992 plus countries with economies in transition, including the Russian Federation, the Baltic States, and several Central and Eastern European States.

Domain 2 – Environmental Economy

Environment taxes (2.1 and 2.5)

An environment tax is defined by Regulation (EU) 691/2011 as: “a tax whose tax base is a physical unit (or a proxy of a physical unit) of something that has a proven, specific negative impact on the environment, and which is identified in the European System of Accounts as a tax.”

Once a tax base has been included in the list of environment tax bases, any tax levied on that base is considered an environment tax, irrespective of the motivation behind it. A list of Environment tax bases was agreed by Eurostat, the EU Commission, the OECD and the International Energy Agency and has been periodically revised.

There are four main types of environment taxes: Energy; Transport; Resource; and Pollution taxes.

A carbon tax was introduced by the Irish government in 2010, which placed a tax on auto-diesel, petrol, aviation gasoline, kerosene, marked gas oil, fuel oil, LPG (Other), Auto LPG, and natural gas.

Environmental subsidies (2.2 and 2.5)

Subsidies or transfers arise where goods, services and assets are provided without receiving any good, service or asset in return as a direct counterpart. National Accounts distinguish between two types of transfers: current transfers which affect the level of disposable income; and capital transfers which are transfers linked to the acquisition (or disposal) of fixed assets.

The United Nations System of Environmental-Economic Accounting Central Framework defines an Environmental Transfer as a “current or capital transfer that is intended to support activities which protect the environment or reduce the use and extraction of natural resources” (SEEA 2012 S 4.138).

The figures in Indicator 2.2 include current transfers, capital transfers and tax abatements from both the Irish Government and the European Union.

Environmental transfers were classified according to nine CEPA (Classification of Environmental Protection Activities) and seven CReMA (Classification of Resource Management Activities) categories.

Environmental transfers in Indicator 2.2 are aggregated from these CEPA and CReMA classifications into transfers associated with the production of energy from renewable sources; waste water management; protection of biodiversity and landscape; heat/energy saving and management; and other transfers.

Average effective carbon rate by type of fuel (2.3)

The average effective carbon rate of a fuel is defined as net energy tax receipts divided by total tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted through combustion of the fuel.

The energy taxes included are Excise Duty, Carbon Tax, Electricity Tax, the National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA) Levy, the Public Service Obligation (PSO) Levy and emission permit purchases under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

 Fossil fuel subsidies (2.4 and 2.5)

A subsidy is a fossil fuel subsidy if it is likely to incentivise fossil fuel activities.

Fossil fuel activities include exploration, extraction, manufacturing, refining and distribution of fossil fuels on the production side, as well as research and development supporting any of the above. Fossil fuel consumption by all sectors of the economy is also fossil fuel activity.

Supports are divided into direct supports such as investment grants, and indirect supports such as tax expenditures. Data on direct supports were mainly obtained from government appropriation accounts, the annual accounts of government departments and agencies, and through requests to the relevant government department or organisation. An example of a direct subsidy is the PSO Levy support to electricity generation from peat.

Indirect supports (or tax expenditures) are defined relative to a system of benchmark taxes. Benchmark tax rates are the standard, conventional rates applied to economic transactions and activities in the economy. Indirect supports are reductions in potential revenue due to deviations from these standard rates. These lower rates are intended to incentivise behaviour that meets particular policy objectives. An example of an indirect support is the reduced excise duty on autodiesel compared with petrol.

Consumer price and harmonised price indices for energy products (2.6)

The Consumer Price Index is designed to measure the change in the average level of prices (inclusive of all indirect taxes) paid for consumer goods and services by all private and institutional households in the country and by foreign tourists holidaying in Ireland. In 2020, approximately 51,000 prices were collected for a representative basket consisting of 615 item headings. 

Personal visits are made to retail outlets by some 80 price collectors on a monthly basis. Approximately 48,000 price quotations are gathered in this way.  In addition, special inquiries covering items such as utility charges and services are conducted by post, telephone and e-mail in conjunction with internet price collection.  Most prices are collected monthly, some quarterly and others annually.

Domestic material consumption (2.7)

Domestic extraction refers to the annual amount of solid, liquid and gaseous raw materials (except for water and air) extracted from the national territory to be used as material factor inputs in economic processing i.e. acquiring value within the economic system. These materials consist of biomass, construction and industrial minerals, gross ores and fossil fuels. Concerning the water content of the raw materials, the convention is to account for all raw materials in fresh weight, with the exception of grass harvest, fodder directly taken up by ruminants, and timber harvest.

Domestic material consumption (DMC) measures the annual amount of raw materials extracted from the domestic territory of the national economic area, plus all goods imports minus all goods exports.

Fish landings (2.8)

The figures in this Indicator refer to all sea fish landings by Irish vessels in Irish ports.

The data are presented as tonnes of live weight equivalent. The data are calculated using the weight of fish landed at port, which is multiplied by a conversion factor depending on species.

Aquaculture and inland fisheries are excluded from this set of figures.

Building energy ratings (2.9)

A Building Energy Rating (BER) is an indication of the energy performance of a dwelling (represented in units of kWh/m2/year). Actual energy performance will depend on how the occupants operate the dwelling. A BER is based on the characteristics of major components of the dwelling including: wall, roof and floor dimensions; window and door sizes and orientations, as well as the construction type and insulation, ventilation and air tightness features; the system for heat supply (including renewable energy), distribution, and control; and the type of lighting. The BER certificate indicates the annual primary energy usage and carbon dioxide emissions associated with the provision of space heating, water heating, ventilation, lighting, and associated pumps and fans. The energy use is calculated on the basis of a notional family with a standard pattern of occupancy – hence figures in this release giving average primary energy use or carbon dioxide emissions are not based on actual data. A BER only covers electricity used for heating, lighting and ventilation with associated pumps and fans. Electricity used for cooking, refrigeration, laundry and the use of other appliances  are not included.

Since 1st January 2009, a BER certificate and advisory report is compulsory for all homes being sold or offered for rent. A BER is also required for new dwellings that apply for planning permission on or after 1st January 2007. A BER certificate is required to avail of the grants for energy-efficiency improvements to the home that are provided under the Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme.

The BER rating scale is divided into categories from G (largest primary energy usage) to an A1 rating (lowest primary energy usage). The kilowatt-hour is the unit of energy used in Dwelling Energy Assessment Procedure (DEAP). The BER is measured in kWh per square metre of floor area of the dwelling per year (kWh/m2/year).

A dwelling may have had more than one BER carried out but data in this indicator only include the latest BER published for each dwelling from January 2009 to June 2021.

Domestic metered public water consumption (2.10)

The data used to compile this indicator were based on meter readings sent by Irish Water on a monthly basis to the CSO.

The meter readings are in cubic metres. One cubic metre equals one thousand litres. The readings in cubic metres have been converted to average and median consumption in litres per meter per day.

The difference between the average and the median gives an indication of the extent of high consumption as the median is less influenced by the small number of meters with very high consumption.

The data used in this indicator only cover metered usage. Apartments, many group water schemes, and abstractions from wells are not included. The 2018 data are based on 860,764 meters.

Networked gas consumption (2.11)

This indicator is based on consumption data from Gas Networks Ireland on all connections to the mains gas network including power plants, non-residential and residential customers. There were 687,749 residential gas meters in 2020. The microdata contains quarterly consumption data for residential and smaller non-residential customers and monthly data for larger users.

The data are gross calorific values expressed in gigawatt hours (GWh). A gigawatt hour is equivalent to one million kilowatt hours.

Fuel excise clearances (2.12)

Clearances reflect the duty paid amounts of oil removed from tax warehouses. Clearances data provide a proxy for sales and the associated level of consumption but do not reflect actual consumption per se. First, clearances relate to Irish duty paid product. They do not include consumption on which Irish taxes have not been paid. Second, clearances reflect the timing of withdrawals of product from warehouses by manufacturers rather than the timing of consumption.

Excise duties are indirect taxes on the sale or use of specific products e.g. alcohol, tobacco, and mineral oils. They are usually applied as an amount per quantity of the product. The Revenue Commissioners collect statistics on the volumes of fuel clearances covered by excise taxes.

EU legislation on excise duties was largely prompted by the launch of the Single Market in 1993. EU legislation was adopted to ensure that excise duties for certain products were applied in the same way and to the same products throughout the Single Market, and that Member States applied at least a minimum rate of excise duty. All revenue from excise duties goes entirely to the Member States.

Environmental goods and services sector (2.13)

The Environment Goods and Services Sector (EGSS), sometimes called ‘eco-industries’, encompasses activities in the so-called green economy. These activities generally include the production of renewable energy and energy saving activities such as retrofitting homes, along with the supply of water, treatment of wastewater, handling of waste and the construction of environment-related facilities. EGSS statistics are part of environment accounts which constitute a satellite account to national accounts. This indicator provides estimates for the value at basic prices of gross output.

Domain 3 – Air

Particulate matter (3.1 and 3.2)

There are many sources of particulate matter including vehicle exhaust emissions, soil and road surfaces, construction works and industrial emissions. Particulate matter can be formed from reactions between different pollutant gases. Small particles can penetrate the lungs and cause damage. These are known as PM10 (diameter less than 10µm) and PM2.5 (diameter less than 2.5µm). There are high levels of PM10 in many cities and towns. In smokeless fuel zones, levels of particulate matter decreased after the ban on bituminous coal in Dublin in 1990. The ban was extended to other parts of Ireland subsequently.

PM2.5 has similar effects on health as PM10. However, PM2.5 is a better indicator of anthropogenic (man-made) emissions than PM10. Fine particulate matter PM2.5 is responsible for significant negative impacts on human health. There is no identifiable threshold below which PM2.5 would not pose a risk.

National Emissions Ceiling 2010 Directive (3.3 to 3.10)

Directive 2001/81/EC of the European Parliament and the Council on National Emission Ceilings for certain pollutants (NEC Directive) sets upper limits for each member state for the total emissions in 2010 of the four pollutants responsible for acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone pollution (sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia and non-methane volatile organic compounds), but leaves it largely to the Member States to decide which measures - on top of EU legislation for specific source categories - to take in order to comply. Ireland’s limits are as follows:

Sulphur dioxide (SO2)

  42 kilotonnes

Nitrogen oxides (NOX)

  65 kilotonnes


  55 kilotonnes

Ammonia (NH3)

116 kilotonnes

Sulphur oxides (3.3 and 3.4)

Indicators 3.3 and 3.4 refer to sulphur oxide emissions measured in units of sulphur dioxide equivalents. The main source of sulphur dioxide in Ireland is burning coal and oil to heat homes and industries and to produce electricity. Levels have decreased over recent years due to increased use of low-sulphur "smokeless" coal, increased use of natural gas instead of solid fuels and reduced industrial emissions through Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) licensing. Sulphur oxides are a group of important ambient air pollutants that comprises both gaseous and particulate chemical species, including sulphur monoxide, sulphur dioxide, sulphur trioxide and disulfur monoxide.

Nitrogen oxides (3.5 and 3.6)

Emissions from traffic are the main source of nitrogen oxides in Ireland along with electricity generating stations and industry. Oxides of nitrogen contribute to the formation of acid rain and of ozone. 

Ammonia (3.7 and 3.8)

Ammonia (NH3) emissions are associated with acid deposition and the formation of secondary particulate matter. The agricultural sector accounts for virtually all ammonia emissions in Ireland. Grasslands ultimately receive the bulk of animal manures produced annually in Ireland along with nitrogen in fertilisers. A proportion of the nitrogen in these inputs is volatilised into the air as ammonia.

Non-methane volatile organic compounds (3.9 and 3.10)

Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) are emitted as gases from the use of a wide array of products including paints, paint strippers, glues, adhesives and cleaning agents. Several constituents of gasoline are important NMVOCs, which are emitted by combustion and evaporation. NMVOCs also arise as a product of incomplete combustion of other fuels, especially solid fuels and as such there are significant emissions from residential fuel combustion. The principal environmental problem associated with NMVOCs is their contribution to the formation of ground level ozone. Fugitive emissions refer to the release of gases from anthropogenic activities. 

Domain 4 – Greenhouse Gases and Climate Change

Greenhouse gas emissions (4.1 to 4.4)

The emissions of greenhouse gases contribute to global warming. Seven greenhouse gases are regulated by international agreements. These are:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Methane (CH4)
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O)
  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC)
  • Perfluorocarbons (PFC)
  • Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)
  • Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3)

Air emissions in Indicators 4.1 to 4.4 are calculated according to the territorial principle rather than the residence principle.

Territorial emissions are emissions produced on the territory of Ireland. They are reported annually by the Environmental Protection Agency and sent to the United Nations under the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). They are used to determine whether Ireland has met its legally binding emissions targets.

Residence principle emissions are obtained by removing transport emissions emitted by non-resident units on the territory of Ireland from total territorial principle emissions, and by adding transport emissions emitted by Irish resident units abroad.

Non-resident emissions include road transport emissions from fuel sales to owners of non-Irish registered vehicles. Resident emissions abroad include carbon dioxide emissions from flights by Irish airlines originating in countries other than Ireland.

Temperature and annual rainfall (4.5 and 4.6)

The national annual average values of rainfall (from 1941) and air temperature (from 1961) are calculated by Met Éireann using quality controlled observations of daily rainfall, minimum and maximum air temperatures at the National Weather Observing Stations, operated and maintained by Met Éireann. The averages are determined from a 1km grid of these observations on the land of Ireland. The values are correct at the date of publication but are subject to change upon the inclusion of new datasets, updates from quality controlled procedures or new data rescued (changes are not limited to these examples).

Domain 5 - Water

Bathing water quality (5.1)

Bathing water assessment and classification is carried out according to EU Bathing Water Directive 2006/7/EC.

Bathing waters are classified as poor quality when microbiological measurements are worse than the "sufficient" values set out in the directive.

For inland waters


Excellent quality

Good quality


Intestinal enterococci (cfu/100 ml) 

200 (*)

400 (*) 

330 (**)

Escherichia coli (cfu/100 ml)

500 (*)

1,000 (*)

900 (**)

For coastal waters and transitional waters


Excellent quality

Good quality


Intestinal enterococci (cfu/100 ml) 

100 (*)

200 (*) 

185 (**)

Escherichia coli (cfu/100 ml)

250 (*)

500 (*)

500 (**)

(*) Based upon a 95-percentile evaluation
(**) Based upon a 90-percentile evaluation

Both Escherichia coli and Intestinal enterococci are types of bacteria that live predominantly in the gut of warm blooded animals, including humans. They generally enter the water environment in run-off containing small amounts of faeces from deposition on agricultural land or urban areas, from the land-spreading of manures, or directly from waste water treatment systems and overflows. Their lifetime outside the gut generally ranges from a few hours to a few days depending on sunlight, temperature, and other environmental conditions.

Drinking water quality (5.2)

Trihalomethanes (THM’s) are formed in drinking-water primarily as a result of chlorination of organic matter present naturally in raw water supplies. The rate and degree of THM formation increase as a function of the chlorine and humic acid concentration, temperature, pH and bromide ion concentration.
Before 2004, there was no parametric limit for compliance with levels of THM. In 2009 the limit changed from 150 µg/l (micrograms per litre) to 100 µg/l.

Urban waste water treatment (5.3)

The Urban Waste Water (UWW) regulations define an agglomeration as 'an area where the population and/or economic activities are sufficiently concentrated for urban waste water to be collected and conducted to an urban waste water treatment plant or to a final discharge point'. Normally there is one agglomeration with a waste water collection system treated by one waste water treatment plant. The EPA figures refer to villages, towns and cities with 500 people or more.

The Urban Waste Water Treatment Regulations 2001-2010 and the 1991 Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD) set requirements on the provision of waste water collection systems and treatment plants, provide for the monitoring of waste water discharges and specify limits for certain parameters in these discharges.

The Regulations and UWWTD specify monitoring requirements and set limits on the concentration of biochemical oxygen demand, chemical oxygen demand, and total suspended solids in waste water discharges.

River water quality (5.4)

River water is the principal source of drinking water in Ireland. The EPA conducts an assessment of river water quality on behalf of Local Authorities and publishes the figures every three years. Samples are taken from over 3,000 locations around Ireland. These biological surveys began in 1971. River water quality is classified into four quality classes based on a scheme of biotic indices, which codify the characteristic changes induced in flora and fauna of rivers and streams in the presence of pollution. Unpolluted waters include pristine waters and waters of a less high but acceptable standard. Slightly polluted and moderately polluted waters are mainly characterised by eutrophication and may not be able to support fish life. Seriously polluted waters are characterised by the presence of high concentrations of biodegradable organic waste.

Nitrates in groundwater (5.5)

Nitrates can cause serious problems when they end up in groundwater or surface water by causing increased growth of algae and eutrophication of water systems. The drop in oxygen that comes with the presence of nitrates can lead to fish kills. The problem stems from the practice of spreading animal wastes – which contain nitrates in high concentrations – on land to improve crops and pastures.

Domain 6 – Land Use

Land use categories (6.1)

Forest Land

Forest land is defined as land with a minimum area of 0.1 hectares under stands of trees 5 metres or higher, having a minimum width of 20 metres and a canopy cover of 20% or more within the forest boundary; or trees able to reach these thresholds in situ. The forest definition relates to land use rather than land cover, with the result that open space within a forest boundary either permanently or temporarily unstocked with trees, along with felled areas that are awaiting regeneration, are included as forest. Trees grown for fruit or horticulture are excluded (included in cropland). As are non-tree woody species such as furze and rhododendron.


The definition of cropland includes “all annual and perennial crops as well as temporary fallow land.” This definition includes crops and temporary grassland managed as part of crop rotation systems. This definition also includes hedgerows associated with cropland systems.

The analysis of cropland area was revised significantly in the EPA’s National Inventory Report in 2016. The revised approach from 2016 is based on a detailed analysis of the Land Parcel Information System (LPIS) data, collated annually by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.


Areas of improved grassland (pasture and areas used for the harvesting of silage and hay) and unimproved grassland (rough grazing) in use are recorded by the CSO’s annual statistics. Semi-natural grassland is estimated using CORINE Land Cover data.

Wetland (including peatland)

Wetland consists of both managed and unmanaged wetlands. Managed wetland areas are commercially exploited for public and private extraction of peat and areas used for the domestic harvesting of peat. Unmanaged wetlands are natural unexploited wetlands.


Settlement areas refer to urban areas, roads, airports and the footprint of industrial, commercial/institutional and residential buildings.


Lakes are excluded from these land use categories. However, watercourses, intertidal zones, coastal lagoons, salt marshes and estuaries are included. These are either included within Wetlands or Other land depending on the likely vegetation associated with each category.

Other Land

Other land is the residual area when all other land use types have been estimated. It is assumed to include rock and sand areas and hedgerows (unless already reported under agricultural areas).

Forest cover (6.2)

Forest area is land under natural or planted stands of trees spanning at least one hectare, with trees higher than 5 metres and a canopy density of more than 10%, whether productive or not. It excludes tree stands in agricultural production systems (for example, in fruit plantations and agroforestry systems) and trees in urban parks and gardens.

Organic agricultural land (6.3 and 6.4)

Organic farming is a system of farming which requires the consideration and application of production methods that do not damage the environment; a more respectful use of the countryside; concern for animal welfare; and the production of high quality agricultural products.

Organic agriculture relies on crop rotations, the recycling of farm-produced organic materials i.e. crop residues, animal manure, legumes, green manure and off-farm wastes and on a variety of non-chemical methods for the control of pests, diseases and weeds. Synthetically compounded fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, growth regulators and livestock feed additives are excluded or severely restricted. The products and methods of genetic engineering are also strictly prohibited.

There is a small difference between the figures for the area farmed organically in Ireland in Indicators 6.3 and 6.4. The figures in Indicator 6.3 are based on the Basic Payment Scheme administered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and refer to utilisable agricultural area, while those in Indicator 6.4 refer to figures collected by Organic Certification Bodies and sent to Eurostat.

Fertiliser sales (6.5 and 6.6)

Well-structured soils that are rich in nutrients are highly fertile. Given sufficient light, warmth and water, they will produce abundant crops. However, the nutrients removed by crops or feeding animals must be replaced or soil fertility will be run down.

Nutrients can be replaced by returning to the soil, plant, animal or human waste, such as sewage sludge, or by adding mineral fertilisers. To grow well, crops need a balanced supply of essential nutrients. The main nutrients used in Ireland are lime, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These and most other nutrients are normally dissolved in water in the soil.

Irish data in Indicator 6.5 includes lime fertilisers as well as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. EU data in Indicator 6.6 do not include lime fertilisers. Both Irish and EU data refer to fertiliser sales rather than use.

Livestock numbers (6.7 and 6.8)

Irish data for cattle are obtained by the CSO from Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Animal Identification and Movement (AIM) system, formerly known as the Cattle Movement Monitoring System (CMMS). This system was introduced at the beginning of 2000 and involves electronically recording data on animal movements. Information on cattle numbers and on flows into and out of the cattle population has been available from this system since December 2002.

Sheep numbers in Ireland were collected by a CSO survey of sheep farmers up until 2017 when the data were taken from the Sheep and Goat survey conducted by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Pig numbers in Ireland have been collected using a specialist pig survey conducted by the CSO since 1973. The survey was conducted four times a year until 1998 and on a bi-annual basis since then.

New dwelling Completions (6.9)

The primary data source used for the New Dwelling Completions series is the ESB Networks new domestic connections dataset, where the date that the connection is energised determines the date of completion. It is accepted that the ESB domestic connections data set overestimates new dwellings so the CSO has adjusted for this overcount by using additional information from the ESB and other data sources such as Building Energy Rating data compiled by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. The ESB data in this indicator excludes re-connections, unfinished/ghost housing estates and non-dwellings.

Domain 7– Energy

Primary energy production (7.1)

Primary energy production refers to the quantities of fuels extracted or produced. It is calculated after any operation for removal of inert matter or impurities (e.g. sulphur from natural gas). It refers only to indigenous production of fuels in Ireland.

Peat is a combustible soft, porous or compressed fossil sedimentary deposit of plant origin with high water content (up to 90% in the raw state), easily cut, of light to dark brown colour.

Natural gas consists of gases, occurring in underground deposits, whether liquefied or gaseous, consisting mainly of methane. It includes both "non-associated" gas originating from fields producing only hydrocarbons in gaseous form and "associated" gas produced in association with crude oil as well as methane recovered from coal mines (colliery gas).

Renewable energy is energy produced from sources that do not deplete or can be replenished within a human’s lifetime. Common examples include wind, hydro and solar energy.

Non-renewable waste refers to the use of the non-renewable portions of waste as an energy source – including, for example, the burning of municipal waste in incinerators to generate electricity.

Final energy consumption (7.2)

Final energy consumption is the total energy consumed by end users, such as households, industry and agriculture. It is the energy which reaches the final consumer.

Final energy consumption excludes energy used by the energy sector, including for deliveries, and transformation. It also excludes fuel transformed in the electrical power stations of industrial auto-producers and coke transformed into blast-furnace gas where this is not part of overall industrial consumption but of the transformation sector.

The “Other” category in Indicator 7.2 refers to consumption of nuclear energy, energy generated from waste and derived heat.

Renewable energy production (7.3 to 7.6)

Renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Renewable energy often provides energy in four important areas: electricity generation, air and water heating/cooling, transportation, and rural (off-grid) energy services. Renewable energy sources include the following:

Hydro-power: Potential and kinetic energy of water converted into electricity in hydroelectric plants. Pumped storage is treated separately in the energy balance.

Wind energy: Kinetic energy of wind exploited for electricity generation in wind turbines.

Solid biomass covers organic, non-fossil material of biological origin which may be used as fuel for heat production or electricity generation. It consists of charcoal and wood, wood wastes and other solid wastes. Charcoal covers the solid residue of the destructive distillation and pyrolysis of wood and other vegetal material. Wood, wood wastes and other solid wastes cover purpose-grown energy crops (poplar, willow etc.), a multitude of woody materials generated by an industrial process (wood/paper industry in particular) or provided directly by forestry and agriculture (firewood, wood chips, bark, sawdust, shavings, chips, black liquor etc.) as well as wastes such as tallow, straw, rice husks, nut shells, poultry litter, crushed grape dregs etc.

Combustion is the preferred technological use for these solid wastes. The quantity of fuel used is reported on a net calorific value basis.

Landfill gas: A gas composed principally of methane and carbon dioxide produced by the anaerobic digestion of landfill wastes.

Biogas: A gas composed principally of methane and carbon dioxide produced by anaerobic digestion of biomass, comprising: sewage sludge gas produced from the anaerobic fermentation of sewage sludge and other biogas, such as biogas produced from the anaerobic fermentation of animal slurries and of wastes in abattoirs, breweries and other agri-food industries.

Liquid biofuel covers the following fuels: Bioethanol - ethanol produced from biomass and/or biodegradable fraction of waste; Biodiesel - a diesel quality liquid fuel produced from biomass or used frying oils; Biomethanol - methanol produced from biomass and/or the biodegradable fraction of waste; Biodimethylether - a diesel quality fuel produced from biomass and/or the biodegradable fraction of waste; and Other Liquid Biofuel - liquid biofuels, used directly as a fuel, not included in biogasoline or biodiesels.

Solar energy: Solar radiation exploited for hot water production and electricity generation by: flat plate collectors, for domestic hot water or for the seasonal heating of swimming pools; photovoltaic cells; solar thermal-electric plants. Passive solar energy for the direct heating, cooling and lighting of dwellings or other buildings is not included.

Geothermal energy: Energy available as heat emitted from within the earth’s crust, usually in the form of hot water or steam. It is exploited at suitable sites: for electricity generation using dry steam or high enthalpy brine after flashing or directly as heat for district heating, agriculture etc. Ground source geothermal energy is included in the category.

In calculating the contribution of hydro and wind energy the effects of weather fluctuation are smoothed through normalisation. The normalised figures are reported to Eurostat as progress towards renewable electricity targets and are required by the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC).

Fuel imports (7.7)

The net fuel import data presented in this table are based upon International Energy Agency/Eurostat /UNECE energy surveys which are carried out by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

Domain 8 – Transport

Vehicles under current licence (8.1)

Vehicles under current licence includes private cars, goods vehicles, motorcycles, tractors, dumpers, excavators, public service vehicles, exempt vehicles and other vehicles.

Rail, bus and Luas transport (8.2 and 8.3)

Public bus and coach transport in Ireland refer to large public service vehicles (PSVs) which cover all buses and coaches except those in private use and youth community buses. Public bus transport services consist of Dublin city, provincial cities and towns, and other scheduled and school transport services.

Rail passenger transport figures includes DART services. Luas Green and Red line tram services became operational in Dublin in 2004.

EU data are not applicable for Cyprus and Malta which do not have rail networks.

International air and sea passenger data (8.4)

Sea passenger data refers to international arrivals and departures at Irish sea ports, excluding passengers on cruise ships, commercial traffic or freight. Air passenger data in Indicator 8.4 refers to the number of international passengers carried on flights (both scheduled and unscheduled) arriving at and departing from airports in Ireland.

Means of travel to work (8.5)

The data are from the Census of Population question: “How do you usually travel to work, school or college?”

The respondent is asked to choose only one option, representing the longest part of their usual journey. The data presented here refer only to people working and does not include students, unemployed or retired people.

Vehicles by fuel type (8.6)

This indicator contains data on the number of newly licensed vehicles in Ireland broken down by fuel type, including petrol, diesel, hybrid, electric and other. A hybrid car is one that uses more than one means of propulsion - combining a petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor for example – rather than using different fuels in the same propulsion system. Other fuels include gas and dual fuels (such as petrol and ethanol blended).

Domain 9 – Waste

Municipal waste (9.1 and 9.2)

Municipal waste means solid household waste as well as commercial and other waste that, because of its nature or composition, is similar to household waste. It excludes municipal sludges and effluents. Municipal waste consists of three main elements - household, commercial (including non-process industrial waste) and street cleansing waste (street sweepings, street bins, municipal parks and cemeteries maintenance, waste, litter campaign material).

Waste management means the collection, transport, recovery and disposal of waste, including the supervision of such operations and the aftercare of disposal sites and including actions taken by dealers and brokers.

Disposal means any operation which is not recovery even where the operation involves, as a secondary consequence, the reclamation of substances or energy.

Recovery of packaging waste (9.3)

Packaging is used to contain, protect and present goods. Packaging is made from such materials as cardboard, paper, glass, plastic, steel, aluminium, wood and composite materials such as those used in milk and juice cartons.

Recovery means any operation the principal result of which is waste serving a useful purpose by replacing other materials which would otherwise have been used to fulfil a particular function, or waste being prepared to fulfil that function, in the plant or in the wider economy.

Collection of electrical waste (9.4)

The EPA collects and compiles statistics relating to Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) under EU Directive 2012/19/EC which replaced the earlier WEEE Directive 2002/96/EC.

The 10 European WEEE categories are: Large household appliances; Small household appliances; IT and telecommunications equipment; Consumer equipment and photovoltaic panels; Electrical and electronic tools; Lighting equipment; Toys, leisure and sports equipment; Medical devices; Monitoring and control instruments; and Automatic dispensers.

Domain 10 – Biodiversity

Protected areas (10.1- 10.3)

The Natura 2000 ecological network of protected areas consists of Special Protected Areas (SPA’s) and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC’s) together. There are small fluctuations in the area designated as Natura 2000 protected sites from year to year due to changes in the scientific information available and appeals against designating land as protected.

EU Member States, concerned about the decline of wild bird species, adopted the Birds Directive 79/409/EEC in April 1979. It is the oldest piece of EU legislation on the environment and one of its cornerstones. Amended in 2009, it became Directive 2009/147/EC.

Habitat loss and degradation are the most serious threats to the conservation of wild birds. The Directive places emphasis on the protection of habitats for endangered and migratory species. It establishes a network of Special Protected Areas, including all the most suitable territories for these species. Indicator 10.2 refers to terrestrial SPA’s only.

Adopted in 1992, the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora aims to promote the maintenance of biodiversity, taking account of economic, social, cultural and regional requirements. It forms the cornerstone of Europe’s nature conservation policy with the Birds

Member States are required to designate Special Areas of Conservation for threatened species and habitats. This ensures the conservation of a wide range of rare, threatened or endemic species, including around 450 animals and 500 plants. Some 200 rare and characteristic habitat types are also targeted for conservation in their own right.  Indicator 10.3 refers to terrestrial SAC’s only.

Common and farmland birds (10.4)

The Countryside Bird Survey (CBS) is Ireland’s national monitoring scheme for common and widespread breeding birds. It is funded by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and is coordinated by Birdwatch Ireland. It has been running since 1998.

The Irish Common Bird Index (CBI) is based on 50 common and widespread breeding birds which are monitored as part of the CBS. The Common Farmland Bird Index (CFBI) is based on 18 breeding farmland birds which are monitored by the CBS.

Time Period: The indicators reflect the period of time that the CBS has been in operation 1998-2019. These recent wild bird indicators should be viewed with caution and seen against the backdrop of significant declines that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s in Ireland and across Europe, before the CBS began.

Historic Declines: In many cases, population increases for species should be viewed as the recovery of populations rather than increases per se.  This is applicable for examples of similar indicators from both the UK and Europe. These indicators cover a larger amount of time than those from Ireland and provide an indication as to the ‘height’ from which Irish species had fallen from before regular annual monitoring through CBS began.

Species Variation: It is important to remember that the indicator is an aggregate of individual species indices and hence masks a lot of variation among individual species and groups of species. Therefore, increases in some species and decreases in other species can balance one another.

Population Size: These indicators do not take account of population size, so a 50% decrease in one species would effectively be cancelled out by a 50% increase in another, regardless of whether one of those species is much more numerous than the other. In this way common species (e.g. Robins, Blackbirds) do not dominate the trends over species that exist at lower densities (e.g. birds of prey).

Rare Species: It should be borne in mind that these indicators are based on data from common and widespread breeding bird species only. Certain species groupings, for example, breeding wading birds and some birds of prey are not included due to lack of data (do not meet the 30+ square average threshold for inclusion in analyses), nor can the indicators reflect the trends of rare/scare species or species that have declined in number to such an extent that they are no longer common and widespread in the countryside. Farmland bird species which were formerly widespread but now rare include Lapwing, Grey Partridge and Tree Sparrow, and these species are not included in the Irish Common Farmland Bird Indicator. The Corn Bunting is included in similar indicators elsewhere (UK, Europe) but went extinct in Ireland in the early 1990’s. Conversely, Buzzards are increasingly recorded through CBS and will soon meet the threshold to be included in future analyses.

Farmland Species: 8 species are included in the Irish Common Farmland Bird Index, and this includes many generalist species and few farmland specialist species. The reason for this is down to island biogeography, the poor status of some farmland breeding birds, and the limited representation of some habitats in Ireland. As such, given that this indicator represents common Irish farmland bird species only, this is an important point to note.

Habitat Representation: The choice of grid squares to be surveyed through CBS is randomised, although there is an attempt to ensure some balance in terms of regionality. However, this still means that certain habitats are under-represented including upland blanket bog, and agricultural tillage. The CBS trends for species that prefer these under-represented habitats in CBS may therefore be biased, with knock-on effects for the accuracy of indicators that include these species.

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