Table of Contents

  • This report examines Ireland’s progress since the previous OECD Environmental Performance Review in 2000, and the extent to which the country has met its domestic objectives and honoured its international commitments. The report also reviews Ireland’s progress in the context of the OECD Environmental Strategy for the First Decade of the 21st Century. Some 38 recommendations are made that should contribute to further environmental progress in Ireland.

  • Following major reductions since 2000 in emissions of SO2 (–61%) and non-methane VOCs (–17%), Ireland is on track to meet the relevant 2010 EU targets. The National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive target for ammonia emissions was achieved in 2001. Emissions of particulate matter (PM) have been substantially reduced in urban areas, and emissions of CO and toxic contaminants have decreased.

  • Ireland generally enjoys good biological quality in its rivers, lakes and in-shore and marine waters. A small improvement in the biological quality of rivers and lakes has been observed in recent years. Substantial investments in drinking water and wastewater treatment infrastructure were made since the 2000 OECD review. As a result, the compliance rate with the EU Urban Waste Water Directive rose from 25% to 92%.

  • The 1998 and 2002 national waste policy statements and the 2001 amendments to the Waste Management Law established ambitious targets and introduced measures for improved waste management. A number of targets were met in advance of their due dates, including the 2010-11 targets for recovery of paper, cardboard, wood and packaging waste, and the 2013 targets for recovery of construction and demolition waste and municipal waste. Large-scale illegal waste dumping has been eliminated through a mix of measures, such as widening kerbside collection of household waste, setting up a specialised EPA enforcement office and introducing complaint procedures and sanctions.

  • Ireland has adopted its National Biodiversity Plan and made good progress with many of the 91 actions the plan identifies. Ireland completed the designation process for terrestrial Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) under the Habitats Directive, and is expected to do the same for Special Protection Areas under the Birds Directive by the end of 2009. The Natura 2000 network would then cover 14% of the national territory.

  • From 2000 to the second half of 2008, Ireland enjoyed sustained and rapid economic growth. In this period, Ireland made progress in decoupling environmental pressures from economic trends, especially for transboundary air pollutants; CO2 emissions increased, but at a lower rate than GDP (relative decoupling). Energy intensity was considerably reduced, and is now the lowest in the OECD. Material intensity also steadily decreased, reaching the OECD average.

  • Ireland has made progress in mapping and reducing adverse health effects of pollution, particularly those caused by urban air pollution. Provision of environmental information has improved through regular, high-quality state of the environment reporting and the operation of information centres. The creation of an independent Commissioner for Environmental Information under the 2007 regulations on access to environmental information, and the expansion of appeal procedures, strengthened access to information and justice.

  • Ireland has introduced a 3% target for annual domestic greenhouse gas reductions and an annual “carbon budget” to monitor progress. The government is committed to introducing a carbon levy that would apply to sectors outside the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). By improving public transport services, the new transport policy released in February 2009 should help curb CO2 emissions. A Cabinet Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security was established, chaired by the Taoiseach (Prime Minister).