Energy consumption accounted for 61% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2016. Transport, residential and industry accounted for the highest shares.

  • 32%

    Higher CO₂ emissions intensity than European average in 2015
  • 61%

    Greenhouse gas emissions from energy consumption in 2016
  • 4.2 MtCO₂

    Reduction in emissions by use of renewable energies

Economic activity and energy use

Ireland’s economy grew rapidly during the Celtic Tiger years. It then contracted sharply between 2007 and 2010. Energy use and emissions also fell, particularly in the transport sector. This is closely coupled with economic activity.

Decoupling of economic activity from energy use

Year GDP Energy CO2
2005 100 100
2006 105 98
2007 111 100
2008 106 100
2009 100 89
2010 102 88
2011 106 82
2012 106 81
2013 108 78
2014 117 77
2015 147 81
2016 154 84
Source: SEAI

Ireland’s economy grew rapidly during the Celtic Tiger years. It then contracted sharply between 2007 and 2010. Energy use and emissions also fell, particularly in the transport sector. This is closely coupled with economic activity.

Between 2011 and 2014 energy-related CO2 emissions fell as the economy grew. We refer to this as absolute decoupling. In other words, emissions declining in absolute terms as the economy grows. Influential factors included:

  • Increased use of renewable energy technologies
  • Higher efficiency vehicles, homes and businesses

Recent rise in emissions

In 2015 and 2016, the economy continued to grow. At the same time emissions started to rise again, albeit at a slower rate than economic growth. This is called relative decoupling. Influential factors included:

  • Economic growth
  • Increased transport demand 
  • Low energy prices driving increased demand

Energy related CO₂ by fuel

 ElectricityOilGasCoalPeatWastes Non-Renewable
2000 15568 21495 2864 1592 1293 0
2001 16883 22607 2961 1572 1247 0
2002 16164 22679 2862 1497 1253 0
2003 15161 22967 3047 1760 1161 0
2004 14815 23487 3216 1802 1142 0
2005 15337 25001 3256 1934 1173 0
2006 14946 25384 3497 1706 1219 0
2007 14516 26005 3464 1677 1166 0
2008 14508 25509 3710 1681 1198 0
2009 13101 22411 3483 1517 1166 29
2010 13414 21659 3801 1467 1087 17
2011 12035 19797 3597 1312 1036 30
2012 12888 18437 3868 1356 919 58
2013 11471 18783 3825 1424 932 81
2014 11261 18686 3845 1306 859 88
2015 11880 19660 4100 1250 862 93
2016 12583 20438 4195 1143 847 88
Source: SEAI

Energy-related CO2 emission levels are affected by fuels and energy sources used. For instance, coal and peat emit high levels of CO2 per unit of energy used. Natural gas emits much less. Some renewable energy sources emit zero carbon. Therefore, changes in the fuel mix over time can increase or reduce emissions.

Intensity of energy emissions

In 2015, the CO2 emissions intensity of our energy supply was 32% higher than the European average. This was in part due to greater use of high-carbon fuels including coal, peat and oil in Ireland.

Some countries in Europe also have a considerably higher share of renewable energy in their energy mix. For example, hydro contributes a significant share to Norway and Austria’s energy mix. Other reasons include the prevalence of nuclear energy in many European countries (e.g. France), and the widespread use of district heating in many Nordic countries.

Renewable energy to avoid emissions

Using renewable energy for heat, electricity and transport reduced emissions by 4.2 million tonnes CO2 (MtCO2) in 2016. This equivalent to the CO2 emissions of almost three quarters of private cars (1.4 million) on the road. It is also the same as one fifth of agricultural emissions of greenhouse gases.