Total greenhouse gas emissions of Germany in 2016 rose by 4 million tons compared to 2015. The reduction target for emissions of 40 percent by 2020 will not be attainable with current measures. An annual decline of 40 million tons until 2020 would be necessary to achieve the target.

Sun ries behind coal power station ( Credit: Phil Noble/Reuters )

During the G20 chairmanship of Germany, the country further wants to propagate the implementation of the Paris climate agreement and the decarbonization of the economy, so Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel at the opening ceremony of the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 2017(Source: Energate). The event with high-ranking representatives from all around the world takes place in Berlin this week.

Renewable energies should benefit from investments, while subsidies for fossil energy carriers are to be cut back. Similarly, the International Energy Agency and the International Renewable Energy Agency released a joint report. It calls for a drastic reorganization of the energy system as the preconditions for achieving the Paris climate agreement. Worldwide emissions also stagnated during the past three years, primarily due to the utilization of gas for power generation in the US, as well as less economic growth in China (Source: SZ).

The German reality however does not comply with the pledges and the necessary changes. Both the German Environment Agency and an analysis of Arepo Consult arrive at the conclusion that the targets set by German will most probably not be achieved. In 2016 the greenhouse gas emissions increased by 4 million tons mainly due to a higher primary energy consumption of Germany. Figure 1 depicts Germany’s annual emissions (Source: Umweltbundesamt).

Figure 1: Greenhouse gas emissions in Germany from 1990 to 2016 in million tons CO2-equivalent

Higher primary energy consumption was a result of cooler weather and due to the transport sector. The emissions of the later rose by 3.4 percent, because road transport increased compared to 2015. Households also emitted 1.7 percent more due to a higher need for heating energy.

The results of the energy sector are the only positive ones. Even though power generation increased, emissions could be reduced about 1 percent or 3.3 million tons of CO2-equivalent. The main reason has been the switch from coal-fired power generation towards a higher share of less-polluting natural gas (Source: Umweltbundesamt).

In order to arrive at an emission reduction of 40 percent until 2020 compared to 1990, greater efforts are required, according to the president of the German Environment Agency: “If things do not get started in the transport sector soon, we will miss our climate goals.” By now the emission reduction of 27.6 percent compared to 1990 and the increase in emissions in 2016 are at least opposed to this week’s political proclamations.