The benefits of residential energy conservation in Ireland in the light of the Luxembourg Agreement and the Gothenburg Protocol
The ‘cohesion’ countries of the European Union face intimidating challenges in meeting the greenhouse gas emissions targets set by the Luxembourg Agreement. It requires breaking the link between increasing gross domestic product per capita and rising energy consumption at an early stage in the economic development cycle. Since the 1990 base year, Ireland has had the highest rate of economic growth in the EU and, therefore, has the most daunting task in staying within the limits of the Agreement. In addition, with regard to acidification (triggered by emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx)), Ireland has new commitments under the recently agreed Gothenburg Protocol. The Irish quotas require substantial reductions in emissions from current (1998) levels, specifically, 71% for SO2 and 44% for NOx. This paper examines the potential reduction in emissions that could be achieved by a programme to improve energy conservation in the residential sector. The economic value of such reductions is examined and the contribution that such a programme can make to assist Ireland in meeting its obligations under the Luxembourg Agreement and the Gothenburg Protocol is explored. The results show that the reduction in emissions from such a programme would be of considerable economic value. In addition, they would account for over one-third of the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions required under the Luxembourg Agreement and 15% of the reduction in SO2 and 11% of the likely reduction in NOx under the Gothenburg Protocol. It would also have the beneficial side-effect of achieving a small reduction in particulate matter.