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What is Germanyʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

Ambition gap

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Germanyʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

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Displayed values
Reference year
−120 %−100 %−80 %−60 %−40 %−20 %0 %200020202040206012345
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Current policy projections
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Historical emissions
Legend
  1. 1
    1.5°C emissions level
    −72 %
  2. 2
    2030 National target
    −65 %
  3. 3
    Ambition gap
    −7 %
  4. 4
    Net zero GHG excl. LULUCF*
    2070
  5. 5
    Reference year
    1990
Key messages

Last updated: August 2021

Germany’s recent update of its 2030 emissions reduction goal to 65% below 1990 levels is a substantial step towards a 1.5°C compatible domestic emission pathway compared to its previous goal of a 55% reduction in the same period.1

1 BMU. Lesefassung des Bundes-Klimaschutzgesetzes 2021 mit markierten Änderungen zur Fassung von 2019. (2021).

2 Climate Action Tracker. Germany | Climate Action Tracker. (2020).

3 Climate Action Tracker. Germany’s proposed 2030 national target not yet 1.5˚C-compatible. (2021).

4 European Environment Agency. Trends and Projections in Europe 2020. (2020).

5 Deutscher Bundestag. Kohleausstiegsgesetz. 2020, 202 (2020).

6 Deutscher Bundestag. Gesetz für den Ausbau erneuerbarer Energien (ErneuerbareEnergien-Gesetz – EEG 2021). (2021).

7 Statistisches Bundesamt. Jährliche Erdgasimporte – Statistisches Bundesamt. (2020).

8 AG-Energiebilanzen. Strommix. (2021).

9 Handelsblattt. Ende der Windpark-Förderung: Gigantischer Rückbau der Windenergie. (2020).

10 Tagesschau. Energiewende in Deutschland: Der Windkraftausbau stockt massiv | tagesschau.de. (2021).

11 Agora Energiewende. Publication – Towards a Climate-Neutral Germany by 2045 (2021).

12 Umweltbundesamt. Previous year’s estimate of German greenhouse gas emissions for 2020. (2021).

13 Agora Energiewende. Die Energiewende im Corona-Jahr: Stand der Dinge 2020. (2021).

14 Eurostat. Complete energy balances [nrg_bal_c]. (2020).

15 Die Stiftung. Kritik an Stiftung für Nord Stream 2. (2021).

16 BMWi. The National Hydrogen Strategy. Fed. Minist. Econ. Aff. Energy (BMWI), Berlin 32 (2020).

17 German Government. Entwurf eines Ersten Gesetzes zur Änderung des Bundes-Klimaschutzgesetzes. (2021).

18 Deutscher Bundestag. Deutscher Bundestag – Bundestag verschärft das Klimaschutzgesetz. (2021).

19 Bee, B. E. E. BEE-Szenario 2030. 2019, (2021).

20 Institute of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne. EWI analysis: Germany will probably miss the 65 percent target — EWI.

21 Climate Analytics. Coal Phase Out Germany / Climate Analytics. (2020).

22 Confirming previous analysis indicating that: “Germany needs to phase coal out of its electricity sector by 2030 to meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement. This is earlier than the dates discussed so far by the Coal Commission, a body established to come up with a coal exit plan by the end of 2018.”21

23 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available, thus we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches which developed countries will need to implement in order to counterbalance their remaining emissions and reach net zero GHG are not considered here due to data availability.

24 Benchmarks here provided are derived from the illustrative pathway CEMICS-1.5-CDR8_REMIND_1.7 (28 MtCO2e) and the 25th percentile (47 MtCO2e) of the analysis 1.5°C compatible pathways in this analysis, assessed by the IPCC SR1.5. See methodology section for more information.

25 This goal reflects the 55% emissions reduction goal. The new goal for the share of renewables is not yet clear.

However, the new goal resulting in emissions of around 437 MtCO2e/yr, is still not aligned with 1.5°C compatible pathways which require that Germany’s domestic emissions decrease by 67-76% below 1990 levels or 304-411 MtCO2e/yr by 2030, excluding LULUCF.

A full fair share contribution to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions compatible with the Paris Agreement would require Germany to go further than its domestic emissions target, and provide substantial support for emission reductions to developing countries on top of its domestic reductions.2,3

There is a very large gap between Germany’s current policies and its new 2030 domestic emissions reduction goals. Current policies projections submitted by the German government to the European Environment Agency, show that the country’s domestic emissions would fall by less than 42% by 2030, only 1% below the emissions levels reached in 2020.4 This corresponds to emissions of 730 MtCO2eq.

Germany aims to reach net zero GHGs by 2045. Our analysis shows that for Germany to be 1.5°C compatible, the country would need a reduction of GHG emissions, excluding LULUCF, of 94-98% by 2050, and would need to balance these residual emissions with, at most, removals of 21-78 MtCO2e/yr.23,24

While global cost-effective pathways assessed here provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to develop negative emissions technologies other than BECCS and tend to rely strongly on land use sinks in developing countries.

The land sector is currently a limited sink and it is expected to become a source of emissions under current policies. Germany will therefore need to deploy carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies to balance remaining emissions. Recent studies indicate a potential of around 63 MtCO2e/yr of removals from CDR technologies in Germany by 2045.11

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Key messages

Germany’s coal phase-out Law adopted in 2020 establishes that the last coal power plants should stop operating in 2038 with a provision to review and assess if an earlier (2035) phase out date is possible.5 Both dates are incompatible with 1.5°C pathways, which requires coal to be phased out by 2029.22

To be compatible with 1.5°C pathways, the share of renewables in the power sector would need to increase to 89-94% by 2030 and 100% soon after. The current German Renewable Energy Law adopted in December 2020, includes the goal of increasing the share of renewables to 65% by 2030.6

While Germany is increasing its dependency on natural gas, such investments will postpone decarbonisation and increase the risk of stranded assets. Gas phase out would need to happen in the late 2030s.7

In 2020, renewables constituted the largest source of electricity generation with a gross share of 44% which grew from a share of 29% in 2015, partly due to decreasing electricity demand.8 The deployment of large-scale renewables has been depressed in recent years due to a poor investment environment, especially for onshore wind and solar PV.9,10

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Key power sector benchmarks

Renewables shares and year of zero emissions power Including the use of BECCS

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Current targets
Required targets
2030
  1. 2030 65 % Renewable share
  1. 2030 88 to 89% Renewable share
2035
  1. 2035-2044 Zero emissions power
2038
  1. 2038 Coal phase-out
2050
  1. 2050 97 to 100% Renewable share

Footnotes