Irish EPA sounds alarm over air emissions

Economic growth blamed again as major pollutant emissions seen rising out of control

Irish emissions of eight major air pollutants spiralled during the 1990s, a report from the environmental protection agency (EPA) has concluded. Even levels of sulphur dioxide, which have plummeted in other European states, rose in Ireland after 1996 as oil-fired power stations were pressed into service to meet booming energy demand.

The report attributes rises in emissions to the country's strong economic growth, which led to a 35% increase in primary energy demand between 1990 and 1998 and a 50% increase in the number of private cars as well as a 20% increase in the number of commercial vehicles.

The EPA's data covers emissions to air from 1990 to 1998 for carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide, methane, ammonia, nitrous oxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and volatile organic compounds. Between them, these are the main gases that contribute to global warming, eutrophication, acidification and low-level ozone pollution.

As with its previous reports on Ireland's environment, the EPA concludes that Ireland has virtually no chance of meeting its Kyoto target of limiting greenhouse gas emission growth to 13% on 1990 levels by 2008-2012 (ENDS Daily 3 May). Irish emissions in fact rose by almost 20% between 1990 and 1998, and are projected to reach levels over 30% above the 1990 baseline by 2008-12 without further, radical policy changes.

Though per capita emissions of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) remain below the EU average, the EPA reports that rising traffic levels guaranteed an upward trend throughout the 1990s. Irish emissions of nitrous oxide, methane and ammonia, all agricultural-related emissions, are the highest per capita in the EU. All rose during the 1990s.

Follow Up:
Irish EPA, tel: +353 53 60600. The report is entitled: "Emissions to Air 1990-1998".

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