Germany on track to widely miss 2020 climate target – government

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The economic boom, the pressure of immigration, and high emissions in transport mean that the energy transition pioneer is headed for a greenhouse gas emission cut of only 32%.

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Clean Energy Wire

The German government has conceded that the country is on course to widely miss its 2020 climate target. The economic boom, the pressure of immigration, and high emissions in transport mean that the energy transition pioneer is headed for a

greenhouse gas emission cut of only 32 percent compared to 1990 – in contrast to the official target of a 40 percent reduction, according to the government’s Climate Protection Report.

The OECD urged Germany to adopt additional measures to reduce emissions to safeguard the credibility of climate policy. [UPDATE – adds link to approved report]

Germany is on course to miss its target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by a wide margin, according to new government estimates.

“It is to be expected that greenhouse gas emissions will decrease by around 32 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 with the measures implemented to date. This will lead to a gap of about 8 [percentage points],” says the Climate Protection Report approved by the cabinet on 13 June and previously seen by the Clean Energy Wire.

In 2014, the government initiated a “Climate Action Programme”. But the additional policies were not enough to close the gap to the 2020 goal of cutting emissions by 40 percent, due to “surprisingly strong economic development and the surprisingly strong population growth,” writes the government in the report, which is due to be published following a cabinet meeting on 13 June.

The report even warns that its emission forecasts “must be considered rather optimistic in light of the current climate protection trends.”

The world’s fourth largest economy has made climate protection one of the priorities in its Energiewende, a dual shift from fossil fuels and nuclear power to a renewables-based energy system. But greenhouse gas emissions have remained stubbornly high.

In recent years, Germany has barely made any progress in lowering its CO2 output. [See the article Energy sector drives slight drop in German emissions in 2017]

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a global organisation of 35 developed and emerging countries, urged Germany to adopt further measures to reach climate targets.

“Additional policies are needed to meet even the near-term targets,” the OECD said in an Economic Survey on Germany. “It is important to meet targets on time as the credibility of climate policy is critical in view of the long-term nature of the climate challenge.”

 

Transport lag

The report says strong economic growth and the refugee crisis are largely to blame for the fact that emissions are not decreasing as fast as previously expected, but critics have been quick to point out that the government’s inaction was also to blame.

“The changes in population size and economic growth are of great importance. The economic growth assumed in the projections was overridden by real developments between 2015 and 2017,” the report says, adding that population growth will exceed projections by one to 1.8 million people by 2020.  This is mainly due to Germany’s massive intake of refugees from Syria.

Among economic sectors, the power sector’s emissions reduction will be the largest “by far,” according to the report. Second comes industry, followed by private households and services. The transport sector is lagging behind, and will only achieve “minor emissions reductions” at best, warns the report.

Transport is the only sector in Germany that has not made any progress in reducing emissions at all since 1990, the reference year for emissions. Due to the slow roll-out of low-emission vehicles, the sector is highly unlikely to catch up quickly.

The OECD criticised in its report that Germany “lacks an overarching policy strategy” for transportation.

Coal conundrum

Green Party co-head Annalena Baerbock told the Clean Energy Wire that the report “documents the political standstill” of the governing grand coalition, and called on the new coal exit commission to initiate the quick shutdown of coal power plants.

Most experts agree that Germany’s only option to drastically cut its emissions in the short term is to shut down its dirtiest lignite-fired power plants.

During the first week of June, the country officially launched a coal exit task force that is tasked with sketching out Germany’s path toward phasing out the climate-damaging fossil fuel. [See the article Germany starts coal exit talks in bid to improve patchy climate record, and the factsheet Germany’s coal exit commission]

The OECD also threw its weight behind a rapid coal exit. “Phasing out coal-fired energy generation has among the lowest CO2 emission abatement costs and would enable Germany to meet its 2020 target.”

Despite the drop in emissions in the power sector, coal-fired power generation remains the country’s single largest source of carbon emissions. The world’s fourth largest economy has been successful in rolling out renewables, which already cover more than a third of its electricity needs.

The so-called coal commission is supposed to make recommendations for closing the gap to Germany’s 2020 climate target “as much as possible” before the COP24 meeting in Poland in early December.

Given the official target of cutting emissions by 40 percent, the environment ministry had already warned in October in an internal paper that a failure of this magnitude would constitute a “significant blow to Germany’s climate policy,” and would be “a disaster for Germany’s international reputation as a climate leader.” [See the article Germany set to widely miss climate targets, env ministry warns.]

The think tank Agora Energiewende* had already warned in early September that Germany must step up its COreduction efforts without delay if it wants to prevent a spectacular miss of its 2020 climate targets. According to the think tank’s calculations, the country’s emissions might even fall as little as 30 percent.

At the time, the environment ministry said that it did not share the think tank’s “extremely negative” assessment.

*Republished with permissionLike the Clean Energy WireAgora Energiewende is a project funded by Stiftung Mercator and the European Climate Foundation.

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17 Comments
  1. George Darroch 4 months ago

    Immigration? What kind of excuse is that? Germany has grown from 82 million in 1996 to… 82 million in 2018.

    No, this is entirely about shutting down nuclear plants and burning brown coal as the primary fuel. They’re Australia in lederhosen.

    • George Darroch 4 months ago

      Their powerful diesel-cheating auto industry has hardly been enthusiastic about a transition to a low-zero emissions future either. It’s thanks to the actions of California’s CARB and the Obama-era EPA that we have them on the retreat.

      • Joe 4 months ago

        What better time than now for the German Government to stop its support of the Dirty Diesel. Yes, we had all the ‘harsh words’ from Govt. officials about the cheating scandal. Yes, the fines are still coming for the auto cheaters ( VW the latest ). Now is the time for the Govt to say we’re not having this anymore…’Diesel ist fertig’. Afterall they can’t cheat anymore with EV’s and the city citizens can start to breath some half decent air once more.

        • MaxG 4 months ago

          The problem is that the Germans seem to cling to their Diesel and still prefer a diesel 55% over 7% EV as their next vehicle (AutoBild). In light of green zones and city barriers, even Euro1 (petrol cars before 2001) are being banned. So both, politicians and the population are at fail to grasp what is actually required to change.

          • Dirk Knapen 4 months ago

            Unlike Norwegians, Germans and their governments have not realised that wholesale power prices have been close or below crude oil prices for some time.

        • Dirk Knapen 4 months ago

          Truth is that “climate” chancellor Merkel has consistently been blocking stricter emission regulations in Europe throughout all of her time in government. Her governments also were on constant attack on financial and societal support for renewables. By end of last year the feed-in-budget had a 5 bn € surplus, in spite of very royal exemptions for industry to contribute to the energiewende.
          Part of that surplus is due to the extremely unreliable production of the nuclear power stations in France and Belgium. That pushed up the value of power on the European wholesale markets. That reduces the supplement that needed to be paid to close the gap between the market price and the feed-in-tarif. In spite of the partial exit of nuclear in Germany after Fukushima that greatly stimulated exports and lignite and coal production.

          • Joe 4 months ago

            Where is the way forwards then. Die Kanzlerin is there for another 3 years, so more of the same. A shame that the last election couldn’t get a ‘Progressive Grand Coalition’ in charge of affairs.

          • Dirk Knapen 4 months ago

            Citizens, citizen cooperatives, communities and busniesses, can push the energy transition with or without their municipalities and cities. Forget about federal and state government much like cities and states in the US push on after Trump stepped out of the Paris agreement. The Energiewende has been realized by citizens anyway.

          • Eric 4 months ago

            If they hadn’t been so lax with immigration they probably would have a more progressive govt now.

            Bleeding heart immigration policies lead to ultra right governments which is the worst possible outcome

    • MaxG 4 months ago

      Yeah, sometimes I wonder who updates these numbers…

    • John Saint-Smith 4 months ago

      Yes, it was an unexpected fly in the ointment, but you may have missed this: “population growth will exceed projections by one to 1.8 million people by 2020. This is mainly due to Germany’s massive intake of refugees from Syria.” Actually, the projections for German population were negative prior to that amazing act of generosity.

      I think the Germans would do a lot better if they followed the lead of Australia’s Lying Nasty Party who shifted the starting point from 1990 to 2005 because our emissions rose at about 1.8% per year in those 15 years, and only began to drop after 2006 as the ‘gold plated poles and wires’ price hikes encouraged people to use less electricity and install solar panels. Instead of Germany’s robust goal of 40% reduction by 2020, Australia stuck a toe in the water with a 5% target! How to succeed without really trying!

      Now Energy and Environment minister Effingberg is dealing with the problem of our rising population threatening to screw up our next modest emissions reduction target of 26% by pretending that it only applies to electricity sector emissions and also by shifting the goal posts again by defining reductions as ‘per capita’ instead of absolute emissions – which is all that really counts with the mitigation of climate change.

      If emissions of bullshit could save the planet we’d be super heroes!

      • Shilo 4 months ago

        I believe that germanys co2 is in fact going up not down 2016 and 2017 were both upward.

      • George Darroch 4 months ago

        Australia (less than a third the size) increases by that amount every three years. It’s not an excuse.

        • Joe 4 months ago

          Australia, one of the world’s worst per capita polluters and our total emissions have gone up each year since the ETS was repealed by The COALition.

    • MacNordic 4 months ago

      Population was forecast to shrink to 80 million in 2020 and further in the next decades down to 75 million in 2040, IIRC, together with the shift in the age pyramid, which leads to further shrinking energy use, as older people are thought to use less energy on average.

      The closure of the NPS in 2011 post- Fukushima might be debatable with view to the CO² emissions, but the numbers do not support blaming that for missing the target. Emissions as per above chart only rose by about 3% in 2012 and 2013, even if nearly half the fleet of NPS were closed down in reaction and never came back on stream*; long term reduction of emissions from “energy industries” has been 26% from 1990 to 2017 – not too bad, but definitely not good enough.

      One of the main problems is the overproduction by the inflexible coalers, with the surplus electricity leading to negative prices during high RE generation and to massive exports – last year, roughly 26.8TWh of generation were exported [https://energy-charts.de/exchange_de.htm]. This chart shows the average export was between 5 and 10GW for most of the year: https://www.agora-energiewende.de/en/service/recent-electricity-data/chart/power_import_export/01.01.2017/31.12.2017/. The associated emissions are of course counted in Germany. The owners of the lignite power stations see the writing on the wall and are trying to sqeeze the last penny out of their investment….

      *The strong anti- nuclear sentiment in Germany should not be
      underestimated; it generated a completely new party (the Greens),
      and plenty of (now) middle aged people were (as children) kept indoors
      for months on end after the Tschernobyl desaster, which sprinkled
      Northern and Western Europe with radioactive fallout. Has made quite an impression…

    • Eric 4 months ago

      Thankfully we don’t have Nuke power plants and never will get them or need them!

  2. Cris Baker 4 months ago

    I’ve read that Germany are also burning wood pellets as fuel, having defined wood as a renewable and non polluting resource! With this twisted logic, coal is also a renewable resource which just takes a little longer than wood to renew.

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