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 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 68-76% below 1990 levels or 295-402 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030, excluding LULUCF.
Germanyʼs total GHG emissions
excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr
- 1.5°C compatible pathways
- Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
- Current policy projections
- 1.5°C emissions range
- Historical emissions
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 emissions reductions to developing countries on top of its domestic reductions.2,3
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 Agora Energiewende. Publication – Towards a Climate-Neutral Germany by 2045 (2021).
6 Deutscher Bundestag. Kohleausstiegsgesetz. 2020, 202 (2020).
7 Deutscher Bundestag. Gesetz für den Ausbau erneuerbarer Energien (ErneuerbareEnergien-Gesetz – EEG 2021). (2021).
8 Statistisches Bundesamt. Jährliche Erdgasimporte – Statistisches Bundesamt. (2020).
9 AG-Energiebilanzen. Strommix. (2021).
10 Handelsblattt. Ende der Windpark-Förderung: Gigantischer Rückbau der Windenergie. (2020).
11 Tagesschau. Energiewende in Deutschland: Der Windkraftausbau stockt massiv | tagesschau.de. (2021).
12 Umweltbundesamt. Previous year’s estimate of German greenhouse gas emissions for 2020. (2021).
13 European Environment Agency (EEA). Member States’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emission projections. (2021).
14 Eurostat. Complete energy balances. (2022).
15 Umweltbundesamt (UBA). Erneuerbare Energien in Zahlen. Umweltbundesamt (UBA) (2022).
16 Agora Energiewende. Die Energiewende im Corona-Jahr: Stand der Dinge 2020. (2021).
17 Eurostat. Complete energy balances. (2020).
19 Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschland (SPD), Bündnis 90/Die Grünen & Freien Demokraten (FDP). Mehr Fortschritt wagen – Bündnis für Freiheit, Gerechtigkeit und Nachhaltigkeit. 68 (2021).
20 German Government. Entwurf eines Ersten Gesetzes zur Änderung des Bundes-Klimaschutzgesetzes. (2021).
21 Deutscher Bundestag. Deutscher Bundestag – Bundestag verschärft das Klimaschutzgesetz. (2021).
22 Umweltbundesamt (UBA). Treibhausgas-Emissionen. Umweltbundesamt (UBA). (2022).
23 Umweltbundesamt (UBA). Energieverbrauch nach Energieträgern und Sektoren. Umweltbundesamt (UBA). (2022).
24 Umweltbundesamt (UBA). Entwicklung des Heizenergieverbrauchs (Brandenburg, 2002-2020). (2020).
25 Immoor, K. Green hydrogen for green steel made in Duisburg: STEAG and thyssenkrupp are planning joint hydrogen project. (2020).
26 thyssenkrupp. Klimastrategie von thyssenkrupp Steel Premium-Flachstahl, weniger von CO2. thyssenkrupp AG. (2021).
27 ACEA. Fuel types of new cars: battery electric 9.1%, hybrid 19.6% and petrol 40.0% market share full-year 2021. ACEA. (2022).
28 ACEA. Interactive map – CO2 emissions from new passenger cars in the EU, by country. ACEA. (2021).
29 Climate Analytics. Coal Phase Out Germany / Climate Analytics. (2020).
30 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.
31 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.
32 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.”29
33 According to the Carbon Contracts for Difference, investor in low carbon technology (e.g. low carbon steel) receives subsidy that amounts to the different between the cost of producing traditional product and the low carbon alternative. This amount is reduced by what the investor would have to pay in carbon price anyway, e.g. in the framework of the EU ETS.
34 Calculations based on new data from Umweltbundesamt (UBA): www.umweltbundesamt.de/themen/klima-energie/treibhausgas-emissionen.
35 This goal reflects the 55% emissions reduction goal. The new goal for the share of renewables is not yet clear.
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.
Net zero GHG
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 2045.5
- 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.6 Both dates are incompatible with 1.5°C pathways, which requires coal to be phased out by 2029.32
- To be compatible with 1.5°C pathways, the share of renewable energy in the power sector would need to increase to 88-89% 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 2030.7
- 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.8
- In 2020, renewables constituted the largest source of electricity generation with a gross share of 44% which grew from 29% in 2015, partly due to decreasing electricity demand.9 The deployment of large-scale renewable energy projects has slowed down in recent years due to a poor investment environment, especially for onshore wind and solar PV.10,11
- Emissions from the building sector in Germany almost halved between 1990 and 2021. 1.5°C pathways show that the sector could be fully decarbonised from around 2040.
- Electrification, deployment of heat pumps and district heating, and installation of solar panels, where possible, combined with energy efficiency, constitute important drivers of the sector’s decarbonisation. 1.5°C compatible pathways show an increase in the share of electricity and heat reaching 45-47% and 6-10% by 2030, respectively. While new buildings are over 20% more energy efficient than 20 years ago, over 90% of homes have been built before 2000. The renovation rate needs to increase significantly.
- Emissions from German industry sector decreased slightly faster than the country’s overall emissions. The main driver of this reduction was decrease in emissions from energy consumption in the sector, with process emissions decreasing at a slower pace.
- Analysed 1.5°C pathways show that hydrogen and electrification could be the main drivers of emissions reductions from the sector. Electrification and deployment of hydrogen together with energy efficiency measures would help fully decarbonise the sector by 2050. 1.5°C compatible pathways show a share of combined electricity, hydrogen and biomass reaching 50-61% already by 2030.
- Ending the free allocation of emissions allowances under the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), accompanied with support mechanism for low carbon technologies, such as Carbon Contracts for Difference are essential for decarbonising the industrial sector.33
- Emissions from Germany’s transport sector fell by only 9% between 1990 and 2021, at a significantly slower pace than the country’s overall emissions.
- Electrification of transport, with some contribution from hydrogen and biofuels, combined with decreasing need for car ownership, could be the main drivers of the sector’s decarbonisation.
- For Germany to be compatible with the 1.5°C scenarios, it will need to fully decarbonise its transport sector by between 2048 and 2052.