Northern Ireland

NI greenhouse gas emissions: Weather and coal blamed for rise

Smokestack Image copyright PA
Image caption A government report suggests two reasons for the increase - weather and global fuel prices

Around 21 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions were released into the air across Northern Ireland in 2012.

The figure represents a 2% increase on the previous year.

Despite the rise, there was a 16% reduction in the longer term between 1990 and 2012 - that is less than half of a government target to reduce greenhouse emissions by 35% by 2025.

A government report suggests two reasons for the increase - weather and global fuel prices.

"The 2012 figures include emissions from widespread forest wildfires which occurred during a spell of particularly dry, windy weather" it said.

"Secondly, global fuel prices have caused a shift from burning natural gas to coal in the energy supply sector."

Craig McGuicken from Northern Ireland Environment Link said while the overall trend was "downwards", the figures showed there was still work to be done.

"Our emission reduction targets are not at the pace required to meet our Programme for Government targets," he said.

Image copyright other
Image caption Northern Ireland greenhouse gas emissions by source, 1990-2012

"The disappointing figures also demonstrate the need for greater cross-departmental action to tackle both climate change mitigation and adaptation at a local level."

Agriculture accounted for most emissions - 30% according to the report.

That is followed by transport (20%), energy supply (18%) and residential (15%).

Estimates put Northern Ireland behind the rest of the UK in reducing emissions.

At around 16%, it is behind Wales (17.9%), England (27.8%) and Scotland (30.8%).

Minister Mark H Durkan said: "It is good to see that there is a long term reduction of 16% in greenhouse gas emissions since the base year of 1990.

"However, it is clear that progress towards long term reductions, including to the Programme for Government target, will be uneven due to factors beyond our control.

"Natural climate/weather variations and economic factors greatly impact on results. The 2012 figures were impacted negatively by global fuel prices and widespread local forest fires.

"I would hope that the long-term reduction trend is evidenced in coming years as significant local low carbon policies on renewables, energy efficiency, resource efficiency, sustainable transport and agriculture make a positive impact.

"There is also significant local activity in the area of climate change adaptation, including the publication of the Northern Ireland climate change adaptation programme in January 2014."

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