Industry and Waste sectors falling short of climate targets

Posted on Thursday, 27 June 2024
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The Climate Change Advisory Council ‘2024 Annual Review: Industry and Waste’ finds that volume of waste being produced in Ireland remains too high, and the rates of reuse and recycling are insufficient and considerably below the EU average.  The most recent data indicate a small reduction in industrial emissions in 2023, but for waste emission, data indicate an overall increase in waste emissions. The largest contributor to waste emissions is methane produced by decomposing waste in landfill sites.


Key findings Industry

The Industry sector, as defined in the sectoral emissions ceilings, covers emissions from both manufacturing combustion and industrial processes.  Industrial emissions covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which represent approximately 80% of the total, fell by 6% in 2023. 

The Industry sector has been set an emissions ceiling of 30 Mt CO2  eq for the first carbon budget period (2021–2025) and 24 Mt CO2  eq for the second carbon budget period (2026–2030). This equates to an overall target of a 35% reduction in emissions in the sector from 2018 levels by 2030.

Emissions from industry accounted for 7.1 Mt CO2  eq in 2021 and 6.6 Mt CO2  eq in 2022.  This indicates that 45.6% of the sectoral emissions ceiling for industry has been used in the first 2 years of the first carbon budget period (2021–2025).  Based on current trends, Industry sector emissions will need to be substantially reduced to stay within the sectoral emissions ceiling for the first carbon budget period.

One of the primary sources of industrial emissions in Ireland is cement production; emissions from cement production decreased in 2023 due to lower production levels, with half of the cement produced being exported, primarily to the UK.   Greenhouse gas emissions from cement production at four cement plants in Ireland dominate industrial process emissions. The Council recommends early implementation of measures in the Climate Action Plan 2024 (CAP24) that target a reduction in the clinker content of cement. Annual targets for sustainable alternative fuel use as part of the next update of the Climate Action Plan to reduce the carbon intensity of clinker production should also be introduced.

In 2023, emissions from food and drink decreased by 3%, and emissions from bulk manufacturing of pharmaceuticals decreased by 6%.  A range of actions set out in CAP24 aim to achieve this reduction and include a 75% share of carbon-neutral heating in industry, a 30% decrease in embodied carbon in construction materials and a 10% reduction in fossil fuel demand through energy efficiency measures.


Key findings Waste

In 2022 waste emissions increased by 7% and accounted for 1.4% of total emissions, while fluorinated gas (F-gas) emissions remained relatively stable and accounted for 1.2% of total emissions.  Methane emissions from landfill are the main contributor to emissions from the Waste sector. The most recent data from 2021 indicate just a 1% decrease in the overall production of waste, a plateauing of the recycling rates for municipal waste and a 4% decline in the recycling of packaging waste.

The main drivers of F-gas emissions are the use of air conditioning and refrigerant gases. In addition, the increasing demand for heat pumps will increase F-gas emissions. The circularity rate for 2022 declined to 1.8%, from 1.9% the previous year, significantly below the EU average of 11.5%.


Key recommendations

Sustainable construction:

  • Develop a strategy to increase the use of timber in construction and introduce whole-life carbon assessments and associated targets in the planning process for public buildings.
  • Agree targets and implement measures to reduce emissions in cement production processes.
  • Reduce cement demand by providing financial incentives to encourage retrofitting of existing buildings instead of demolition and rebuilding.
  • Ensure that economic incentives, including grants and taxation structures, encourage retrofitting of the existing commercial and residential building stock over demolition to reduce demand for cement and concrete and to minimise the generation of construction waste.
  • Apublicly supported construction should meet the requirements of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland’s 2030 Climate Challenge and that all new planning applications incorporate a whole-life carbon assessment in line with the provisions of the recently adopted Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.
  • Establish of a high-level cross-departmental task force to prepare an overarching national strategy for all aspects of the timber industry (production, processing and use) in Ireland to support increased use of timber in construction.

Data centres:

  • Ensure that the electricity demand of new data centres is entirely met with new renewable generation.
  • Any new data centre development must allow for simple connection to future district heating networks so that its waste heat can be used to provide low-carbon heat for homes.

Just Transition:

  • Develop a Just Transition Plan that identifies skill gaps and the reskilling required to achieve climate targets. This will also signal areas for investment in training.
  • Ensure sufficient funding support to allow businesses to develop products and services promoting new innovations in adapting to the impacts of climate change.

Social Justice Ireland view:

Ireland’s waste generation continues to increase in line with economic growth, indicating that we have not succeeded in moving from the linear economic model of “take, make, use, and waste”. We need to move to circular economy where resources are re-used, repaired or recycled as much as possible, and the generation of waste is minimised.  A circular economy is one that is based on less waste and more reuse of materials; these trends show Ireland is going in the wrong direction. Our rising levels of waste are unsustainable and immediate steps must be taken to address these trends. Systemic change is needed across all economic sectors to shift the focus to designing out and reducing waste and promoting reuse and recycling.  The introduction of an aggregate levy to promote recycling in the building industry and further investment in policies to reduce the level of municipal waste going to landfill and promote the use of re-usable, biodegradable and compostable products is required.