The State body responsible for the protecting the environment and regulating greenhouse gas emissions has revealed that the vast majority of its fleet of vehicles is diesel-fuelled.
The Environmental Protection Agency – which says it is “at the front line” of environmental policing – owns 32 vehicles, which staff mostly use to travel around the State on inspections and site visits. Of these, 26 – or 81.25 per cent – are solely run on diesel.
Documents released under the Freedom of Information legislation reveal the EPA continued to purchase diesel vehicles this year with a Toyota Landcrusier bought at a cost of €44,600.
In 2016, the EPA bought a diesel-run Ford Transit for €24,000 which it says is used as part of its work in the “calibration of air quality instruments throughout the country” and “setting up air monitoring sites”.
While the range of electric vehicles currently available on the market is limited and not always suitable for some day-to-day activities of a State agency, the agency has also bought some lower emission hybrid vehicles in recent years.
Five hybrid Mitsubishi Outlander 4x4s were purchased over the past two years, at a total cost of €234,000. It also has a duel-fuel Isuzu Meridian from 1997, which is used for transporting furniture and other general duties.
The agency has been warning the public for years about diesel’s role in climate change-causing greenhouse gases. It has also blamed the fuel for pollutants which cause heart attacks and lung disease.
Since 2015, when the so-called dieselgate scandal heightened concerns about the fuel’s impact on the environment, the agency has bought six diesel vehicles.
The four vans (three Ford Transits and a Volkswagen Transporter) and two 4x4s (a Mitsubishi Pajero and a Toyota Landcruiser) cost about €207,000 in total.
The diesel-fuelled Toyota Landcruiser is one of 13 in the fleet. There are six Ford Transits, three Mitsubishi Pajeros, a Volkswagen Caddy, a Volkswagen Transporter, an Opel Vivaro and a Nissan Patrol.
A hovercraft used by the EPAis run on unleaded petrol but the agency has no electric vehicles.
The EPA said it approved a new policy in December 2016 “with a specific commitment to decarbonise EPA transport”.
“Our stated policy is to replace these vehicles with suitable low-emission vehicles where available and suitable,” an EPA spokesman said. “This may not always be the case due to the technical requirements and terrain the vehicles have to travel on.
“In this regard five new hybrids have been purchased over the past two years. The EPA is also currently seeking expressions of interest to outsource its fleet management with a strong emphasis on low/zero emission vehicles.”
The spokesman added that the EPA intended to provide electric vehicle charging points at all of its office locations by the end of this year, with points already introduced at four of six of these.
After agriculture, transport is the biggest contributor to overall carbon emissions in the State.
The EPA warned in 2016 that diesel cars represent “the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions” from transport in Ireland, with”negative implications for air quality due to the higher nitrous NOx emissions produced than from equivalent petrol fuelled cars.”
The previous year, it blamed diesel cars as “a key source” of particulate pollution with “significant human health impacts” that include cardiovascular disease, lung disease and heart attacks.