Ireland's targets to reduce air pollution
- How is Ireland tackling air pollution?
- Ireland’s national air pollution targets
- What is Ireland doing to meet these targets?
- EU air pollution targets
- International air pollution targets
How is Ireland tackling air pollution?
Air pollution occurs when gases and chemicals like carbon dioxide are released into the air. This happens when fossil fuels, such as coal, are burnt. Air pollution is a major health risk and can cause heart disease and lung cancer. It damages the environment and is a cause of climate change.
To reduce the amount of pollutants in the air, Ireland has committed to reducing air emissions in national, EU and international agreements. These agreements contain targets that Ireland aims to meet within a certain time period, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030. Ireland’s current plan to reduce air pollution is set-out in the Climate Action Plan 2021.
You can read more about climate action in the Climate Jargon Buster, which explains complex ideas and terms about climate action and air pollution.
If the air is polluted in your area, you can report this to your local authority or make a complaint about air pollution.
Ireland’s national air pollution targets
The Climate Action and Low Carbon (Amendment) Act 2021 was passed in July 2021. The Act outlines ambitious air pollution targets. It commits Ireland to:
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030
- Achieving a climate neutral economy by 2050, this is known as the ‘national climate objective’
A climate neutral economy is an economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Net-zero emissions means the amount of emissions produced equals the emissions removed from the atmosphere. This is also known as ‘carbon neutrality’.
For more information on the Act, read these FAQs (pdf).
Ireland’s national air pollution targets are also outlined in the Climate Action Plan 2021 (pdf). The plan contains strategies to reduce emissions in areas such as electricity, business, homes and buildings, transport, agriculture, and the public sector. The plan complements Ireland’s international and EU air pollution commitments.
The Air Quality Standards Regulations also set the EU Cleaner Air for Europe (CAFE) directive into Irish law. They outline the limits for certain pollutants in the air.
What is Ireland doing to meet these targets?
The Climate Action Plan
The Climate Action Plan 2021 sets out the actions we need to take to reach the targets in this plan. They include:
- Generating 80% of electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind power
- Increasing the number of electric vehicles (EVs) to around 1 million by 2030, including 1,500 electric buses
- Increasing the proportion of energy that comes from renewable sources for heating homes and businesses
- Reducing emissions from the public sector by 51% by 2030 with Green Teams in every public body
- Increasing land that is farmed organically to 350,000 hectares
- Reducing the use of chemical nitrogen fertiliser to 325,000 tonnes per year
- Reducing food waste by 50% by 2030
The Climate Action Plan will be updated annually.
The Climate Action Plan for 2022 will include legally binding carbon budgets with limits for greenhouse gas emissions for each sector of the economy. A carbon budget is a limit on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in a certain timeframe. It is a short-term goal that fits in with the long-term target. The first carbon budgets will cover 2021 – 2025 and 2026 – 2030.
You can read an update on how Ireland is meeting the climate action targets in the progress reports that are published every quarter.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors air quality and implements initiatives to reduce air pollution. They provide real-time information on air quality to ensure that the level of harmful pollutants in the atmosphere remain within legal limits.
The EU Innovation Fund
The EU Innovation Fund provides funding for large and small scale projects that use innovative low-carbon technology that leads to a significant reduction in emissions.
Ireland will have €10 billion to invest before 2030. The Fund supports projects in the following areas:
- Energy intensive industries
- Renewable energy
- Energy storage
- Carbon capture, use and storage
There are training, mentoring and financial supports available to businesses trying to reduce their emissions. They include the Climate Enterprise Action Fund and EXEED grant scheme. Find out more in our document Supports for businesses going green.
EU air pollution targets
Ireland is signed up to a number of EU directives to reduce air pollution and improve air quality.
This includes the Emissions Trading Scheme, which applies to power stations, industrial plants and airlines that operate in the EU. The scheme works on the ‘cap and trade’ system. A limit is set for the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted by sectors covered by the scheme. Over time, this cap is reduced, which means overall emissions fall. Businesses can trade or buy emission allowances. But, if a business emits more than their cap and doesn’t trade or buy an equivalent allowance, they will be fined. The energy, industry and transport sectors covered by the scheme must reduce their emissions by 43% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.
The Effort Sharing Regulation binds member states, including Ireland, to national targets which will result in a 30% reduction in emissions by 2030. It covers sectors such as transport, buildings, agriculture and waste.
The EU’s National Emission Ceilings Directive sets out emission-reduction commitments for 2030 for specific air pollutants including nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide and ammonia. The Cleaner Air for Europe (CAFE) directive also sets limits for harmful pollutants such as carbon monoxide, lead and benzene.
International air pollution targets
Ireland is a member of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which supports a global response to climate change. The convention has 197 members and is the parent treaty of the Paris Agreement.
The Paris Agreement
The Paris Agreement is a legally binding, global agreement on tackling climate change. It has been adopted by 197 countries since 2015.
The agreement sets out a long-term goal to limit climate change by limiting global warming to below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels.
Ireland contributes to the agreement through climate action plans submitted by the European Union on behalf of member states. These plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), outline the strategies and targets a country is taking to tackle climate change.
The EU’s NDC commits to a 40% reduction in EU-wide emissions by 2030 compared to 1990.