Irelands environmental regulator has reported an increase in emissions of three major air pollutants ammonia, nitrogen oxides and non-methane volatile compounds in figures published for 2016.
The figures published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week (29 March) show that that Ireland remains in compliance with its nitrogen oxide and non-methane volatile organic carbon emission limits, though these emissions are increasing.
However, the data shows that Ireland exceeded its emission limits for ammonia for the first time in 2016 and emissions of this gas are increasing, the EPA has claimed.
According to the regulator, agriculture accounts for virtually all of the ammonia emissions in the country, largely arising from the application of fertilisers including animal manure and nitrogen-based fertilisers.
Increasing ammonia air pollution has also been acknowledged as a problem in the UK which saw an increase in ammonia emissions of 3.2% during the same year (see airqualitynews.com story). This was largely thought to be due to the manure management of larger dairy herds and from spreading of fertilisers.
Stephen Treacy, Senior Manager with the EPA, said: Our figures show that emissions of three of the five main pollutants are going in the wrong direction. Higher emissions of these pollutants will cause damage to air quality and health and make future compliance with EU limits more challenging.
Ammonia limits have been breached due to the rapid expansion of dairy and beef production in Ireland in recent years. This underlines the challenge in designing appropriate policies that protect our environment in a growing economy.
On the positive side, Ireland has significantly cut emissions of sulphur dioxide, greatly reducing the environmental damage caused by this pollutant, via behaviour change and response to regulatory interventions. While overall emissions of particulate matter also declined in 2016, localised problems can arise because of residential solid-fuel use.
According to the data, sulphur dioxide levels have continued to decrease, and fall below the legal EU emission limits, particularly due to the use of lower sulphur content fuels in electricity generation and transport, according to the EPA.
Ireland’s Air Pollution Emissions 2016