The Environmental Protection Agency has said that Ireland is predicted to breach its annual greenhouse gas emission obligations under the EU 2020 target from 2017 onwards.

It says that total emissions are projected to be 4.1 to 7.8 million tonnes of CO2eq above the EU 2020 target.

Emissions from agriculture are projected to increase by 7% by 2020 on 2010 levels, which shows the projected impact of Food Harvest 2020 and removal of EU milk quota.

The EPA said Ireland can comply with its Kyoto obligations (2008 - 2012) with regard to greenhouse gas emissions.

These projections update the previous set of national emission projections, which were published in April 2011 by the EPA.

Two scenarios are developed - one based on policies and measures already in existence or being implemented, and the other on existing measures plus all planned policies and measures that are currently known.

EPA Director General Laura Burke said the projections show a reduction in Ireland's distance to target under the Kyoto Protocol and the EU 2020 targets.

This reflects a combination of the effects of the economic recession, as well as assumptions on the full implementation of relevant Government policies.

Failure to deliver on the measures outlined in Government policies, she said, will result in higher emissions than predicted.

Ms Burke said Ireland cannot rely on recession to meet our long-term carbon reduction requirements and needs to develop as a low carbon economy. In order to ensure that our future economic growth is sustainable, she said, it must be more resource-efficient and decoupled from increases in emissions.

Greenhouse gas emissions projections have been produced by the EPA for both the Kyoto period, and for the period up to 2020.